Two months have passed since the slew of four Hurricanes hit gulf-shore states, leaving dozens dead, thousands homeless and millions without power. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which acted as the third largest relief group to the victims, announced on Oct.22 that it will close its short-term recovery efforts by the end of October. Nonetheless, according to officials, long-term recovery and rebuild efforts will remain.
“This response compares to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which previously had been Southern Baptists’ largest response, but when you consider the logistics of it all, this was much more difficult because we had four different affronts and two evacuations, and we were able to produce in the neighborhood of 2.5 million meals,” said Jim Burton, director of the North American Mission Board’s volunteer mobilization team.
Since Hurricane Charley hit Florida in mid August, Southern Baptist relief workers prepared more than 2.4 million meals to Floridians. Hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne immediately followed Charley, leaving behind billions of dollars of damages.
“Southern Baptists are going to need to have a presence in these affected states for at least two years helping to put back together both churches as well as owner-occupied homes that were under-insured or non-insured,” Burton said. “We would encourage churches even now as they look toward their summer mission projects to check with Alabama and Florida to see if there are assignments they can help with in those states.”
Currently, relief workers from Kentucky, Georgia, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, and Mississippi, are stationed in Florida and Alabama to clean debris and install plastic tarps on damaged roofs. Several feeding units are still in operation.
“They’re doing about 10,000 meals a day total,” said Terry Henderson, national disaster relief director with NAMB. “After this weekend, we should go over 2.5 million meals.”
Henderson explained the ongoing needs in several communities.
“There are a lot of pockets they’ve found up there that are going to be without power for an extended period of time,” he said. “A lot of people live in wooded areas, and power poles were still down a week ago when I was there.”
At that end, Burton explained the relief efforts that will need to continue even after the “cleanup ends.”
“Southern Baptists need to remember that disasters aren’t over when the cleanup ends,” Burton said. “There are emotional and financial and spiritual issues that must be addressed for years to come. As a denomination we need to be supportive of the Baptist state conventions in the affected states as they develop their long-term strategy not just of the physical rebuild but also of the emotional and spiritual rebuild.”
According to Burton, the NAMB will help the regions hit by hurricanes in the long-term through its World Changers mission projects.
“The annual objective of World Changers, which is primarily the rehabilitation of substandard housing and sharing the Gospel, is going to blend well with the long-term recovery efforts of disaster relief,” he said. “I do think that World Changers is going to be part of the answer to the rebuild down there.”
To continue giving to the NAMB and SBC efforts, please visit: www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.