Dorian crawls northward, Baptists prepare response

Hurricane Dorian finally completed its pounding of the Bahamas Tuesday morning (Sept. 3). After intensifying to a Category 5 before devastating the islands, Dorian weakened to a Category 3 as it continued its slow trek toward Florida. Early reports describe the damage as historic, and five deaths had been reported in the Bahamas.

Baptist Global Response (BGR) has purview over the Bahamas and will be assisting with disaster relief efforts once the storm passes and damage assessments have been completed. Jeff Palmer, executive director of BGR, said he is in contact with the Bahama Baptist Convention and the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship.

“After the assessments, we will know what kind of help we need,” Palmer said. “It might involve medical help, food, water, shelter — you can imagine what the needs might be based on a storm like this.”

According to Palmer, Baptist churches in the Bahamas have a strong network, and BGR will cooperate and work through them.

“They are the ones who will be around to minister in the long term,” Palmer said. “We want to work through them so they will receive the credit.”

The storm’s slow crawl toward the East Coast persists, but most forecasting models indicate that the eye of the storm will not make landfall. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) projects Dorian will turn north and curl back out into the Atlantic. Yet, only a slight shift in the official forecast would bring the center of the storm closer to the coast, according to the NHC.

While the eye may not make landfall, if its current projected path holds, the East Coast — from Florida at least through North Carolina — will still feel the damaging effects of the wind, rain and storm surge.

“Life-threatening storm surges and dangerous, hurricane-force winds are expected along portions of the Florida east coast through mid-week, and storm surge and hurricane warnings are in effect,” the NHC posted on its website.

South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief has five mobile kitchens prepped and ready to respond, DR director Randy Creamer said. A large number of chainsaw and flood recovery units, shower units, chaplain and assessor teams, and childcare resources also are eager to help if needed, he added.

“At our state convention office, we’ve done all we can in our Disaster Operation Center to be ready [for deployment],” Creamer said. “We also have no less than eight other state conventions’ disaster relief resources ready to assist,” he said. “Some have actually moved closer to the Southeast and are ‘staging’ in safe places until the storm passes.”

In the meantime, Creamer added, South Carolina Baptist leaders are “praying, waiting, watching!”

Other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer teams have been activated as well. Several out-of-state SBDR teams, such as Kentucky, Missouri and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, have committed to move toward Florida to assist in the relief effort.

Given the unpredictability of the storm’s path, teams have not been assigned locations as assessors will need to evaluate the damage.

“Several SBDR teams from across the nation will be headed toward the coastline and will be equipped to respond to any situation Dorian leaves in the aftermath,” said Sam Porter, national director of SBDR with the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “We will be there to serve survivors in their recovery.”

Send Relief, NAMB’s compassion ministry arm, has packed and staged a truck filled with relief supplies at NAMB’s building in Alpharetta. The contents will support the boots-on-the-ground efforts by SBDR and include: 10 pallets of rolled roofing, 360 crisis buckets, 800 “push packs” to assist with mold remediation due to flooding, enough Shockwave (mold remediation) treatment for 7,000 homes, and 33,000 ready-to-eat meals.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services. NAMB provides national coordination and assistance in larger multi-state responses.

— Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board. With additional reporting by The Baptist Courier.