While hurricane Florence churned in the Atlantic, choosing a target on the east coast of the United States, more than 80 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders from the Midwest were meeting in Illinois.
Sam Porter, national director of Disaster Relief, reported on preparations being made ahead of the hurricane’s projected landfall. It was estimated at the time that displaced people in the wake of Florence would require 75,000 meals per day for 40 days.
IBSA’s Dwayne Doyle, Administrative state director for Disaster Relief, said units from all states east of the Rockies are on standby. “We’re asking trained Illinois volunteers to check their availability over the coming weeks. We hope to send hundreds of volunteers to assist with this response. Though we don’t know where we’ll be going today, we know we will be going.” Doyle advised checking the website for team callouts at IBSA.org/DR.
All eyes were on Florence even as DR leaders from the Midwest gathered Sept. 10-11. More than 80 state and team leaders attended the Region 2 meeting held at Chatham Baptist Church. Six of the nine Baptist conventions in the region were represented.
One focus of the meeting was how to do follow-up ministries with homeowners after Disaster Relief leaves the scene. “Don’t overpromise anything to a homeowner,” Harold Booze of the assessor team advised the group. “Nevertheless, give specifics on what you know so the homeowner knows what to expect, and what to rely on.” For many people, the days immediately after a storm are the most uncertain, and the time when they are looking for answers that may be a long time coming.
In addition to providing work teams to assist overwhelmed homeowners with flood recovery, Illinois has a shower unit and a laundry unit to give them a means to clean up. But for Southern Baptists, the best opportunity crisis brings is spiritual openness.
“Chaplaincy is not just about evangelism,” said Larry Randolf, a leader from Ohio. “It’s about counseling, comforting, and using the gifts that God has given us.” Chaplains are onsite to share the gospel and offer resources on suicide and depression.
Dale Patterson, a chainsaw team leader from Ohio, discussed how to retain volunteers, and Wayne Lankey from Illinois discussed the managing role of the “blue hats,” the site leaders identified by the color of their baseball caps. And Carol Stewart emphasized the need for chaplains and more male volunteers in childcare. Illinois DR regularly sends child care teams to keep children while their parents wait in lines for FEMA assistance.
“God’s power can be seen though the face of disaster,” said Sam Kelley, Disaster Relief director in Ohio. “And each of us have the opportunity to share that—to share God’s love to those that need it.
“You all need to be aware that a hurricane is coming,” he said of Florence, “and you may be called to help. So, remember again, to share of God’s power.”