Southern Baptist Disaster Relief operations are winding down in the Joplin, Mo., area, where at least 134 people died as a result of the EF-5 tornado that devastated as much as one-third of the city of 50,000.
"We're getting a lot done," said Rick Seaton, director of men's missions and ministry for the Missouri Baptist Convention. "But most of our feeding, chainsaw and chaplain operations are phasing out over the weekend. Childcare is shutting down on Friday. After Sunday, we'll have only one feeding unit and one chainsaw unit operating."
The Joplin disaster relief effort saw:
-- 400 volunteers from Missouri, Kansas/Nebraska and Oklahoma prepare 18,140 meals and provide almost 900 showers and laundry loads.
-- Chaplains make 4,040 visits and contacts.
-- Chainsaw crews complete nearly 400 jobs.
"We just appreciate the prayers and financial support and all the teams who volunteered," Seaton said. "It was a tremendous response and a big operation. It's gone well because of the 400 people who made it happen."
Disaster relief crews, Seaton said, have "only been able to work around the perimeter of the total destruction."
"We've only been able to work around the perimeter of the total destruction. Also, we had a lot of help -- 20 chainsaw teams and those teams have done nearly 400 chainsaw jobs. So the work is done, with a few exceptions," Seaton said, adding that there are no plans as yet for a long-term re-build effort in Joplin.
Disaster relief (DR) operations in Illinois that are following Mississippi River flooding are also standing down in the Metropolis, Ill., and southwest Illinois areas. Ohio, Virginia and Indiana volunteers supported the Illinois DR crews.
Also affected by the Mississippi River's flooding was Kentucky, where mud-out and chaplaincy work is continuing in three associations -- the West Union, Ohio River and the Green Valley Baptist Associations. Coy Webb, state DR director for Kentucky, said those operations will wrap up by this weekend.
Montana DR teams have been preparing 1,000 meals a day for the Crow Reservation over the last six days, following serious flooding along the Missouri River -- which continues to rise -- in eastern Montana and South Dakota. Many local residents have been told to evacuate their homes.
Just during the month between the deadly tornadoes that struck Alabama on April 27 and June 2 -- including the Joplin tornado -- Southern Baptist DR volunteer teams have:
-- prepared almost 400,000 meals.
-- completed almost 2,300 chainsaw jobs and 150 mud-out jobs.
-- provided more than 11,000 showers and laundry loads.
-- recorded 12,000 chaplaincy and ministry contacts
-- presented the Gospel 408 times with 60 professions of faith.
But even as Southern Baptist DR teams are standing down following Spring 2011's horrific tornadoes and floods, the North American Mission Board's disaster relief team leader, Mickey Caison, was at the White House on June 1. Caison met with President Obama, leadership from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, American Red Cross, and other federal and state officials to discuss preparedness for the 2011 hurricane season.
Caison attended the White House meeting in his role as president of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD).
"Recent events including the deadly tornadoes in the central U.S. and Southeast, flooding along the Mississippi and other emergencies serve as a reminder that we should be prepared to address all hazards, including hurricanes," said FEMA administrator Craig Fugate.
The beginning of the 2011 hurricane season is a good time for families, churches, associations and communities to stop and make preparations so that in the event of a disaster, they will be ready with resources and a plan, Caison said. Individuals can find resources to help their families, churches and associations prepare for potential disasters at http://www.namb.net/Disaster-Relief-Preparedness/
Resources to assist in disaster preparedness are also available from the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) and at www.ready.gov.
"The response of Southern Baptists across North America to the recent wave of disasters has been enormous," said Caison. "Volunteers have traveled to assist devastated communities, and countless individuals, churches and organizations have called asking how they can help."
Caison said the best donation in a disaster is a gift of cash to a recognized disaster relief organization. On Tuesday of this week, FEMA Region IV -- which includes Joplin -- posted the following: "A second disaster threatens to overtake Joplin by way of a tidal wave of unsolicited goods (clothing, miscellaneous household items, mixed or perishable foodstuffs, diapers, etc.) and volunteers who just show up to help. Critical resources are being redirected from the important work of response and relief to manage what has become a crush of unneeded donated items."
Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to Southern Baptist disaster relief can go to www.namb.net and hit the "donate now" button. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Checks should be designated for "Storms 2011." Donations can also be sent via texting "NAMBDR" to the number "40579." A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller's mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.
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