With Hurricane Ivan looming nearby, the Christian and humanitarian disaster relief groups began their plans to evacuate Florida once again, Sept. 9, 2004.
Hurricane Ivan, the most powerful hurricane to hit the Caribbean in over a decade, ravaged the already-impoverished islands with 160-mph winds. Ivan, a category 5 storm on a scale of five, killed 18 people and damaged 90 percent of the buildings in Grenada – including a stone prison whose inmates are now on the loose.
Officials have called for the complete evacuation of the nearby Florida Keys, and have also encouraged those living in Florida to head inland. Should Ivan hit Florida, it will be the third deadly hurricane to do so less than one month; the last time three hurricanes hit Florida within one year was forty years ago. Forecasters say the storm may hit the gulf or the Atlantic coast by Monday or Tuesday.
With such a deadly force looming over the relief operations, Southern Baptist and other denomination-based relief groups began evacuating the state before heavy traffic moved in. More than 100 Southern Baptist Volunteers, working through the North American Mission Board (NAMB) made plans to move out by mid-day Friday and Saturday. The majority of these volunteers had just moved into Florida following the passage of Hurricane Frances.
“Some of the [cooking] units will leave after lunch Friday, and the remaining will leave after lunch on Saturday,” said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization for the NAMB.
“We must evacuate ahead of the anticipated storm to avoid traffic jams and protect the equipment as well as our people in order that they will be available to re-deploy following the storm,” Burton explained.
These relief units will most likely camp in nearby Georgia and Alabama while Ivan passes through, and head back to Florida the first of next week.
“We’ve been stretched pretty far,” said Mickey Caisson, NAMB’s disaster operations manager. “We’re doing a juggling act as things change constantly. We need Southern Baptists to pray for those in the path of the new storm, those already affected, our thousands of volunteers, many of whom are tired having been in the field for as long as three weeks. And, pray for wisdom for those in leadership that we make the right decisions at the right time.”
According to Robert E. Reccord, president of the NAMB, donations for the hurricane relief effort has been flowing in generously.
“Southern Baptists have so generously opened their hearts and their wallets for these disaster relief efforts,” he said. “NAMB has received $150,000 the last three weeks designated for disaster relief, and that’s in addition to $300,000 we sent to the Florida Baptist Convention that was given by thousands of Southern Baptist teenagers while participating in WorldChangers mission projects the past two summers.”
Nonetheless, despite the support, Reccord noted that more is needed. Hurricane Charley alone cost $7 billion and Hurricane France an additional $4 billion. Therefore, Reccord urged the faithful nationwide to give more.
The SBC, with over 4,000 volunteers having served over a million meals, has been the third largest relief group in Florida, after the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.