"The devastation in Vermont continues to be uncovered, and so we're going to need all hands on deck there," said Jim Wideman, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE).
Although the Associated Press reported that all of Vermont's isolated communities have now been reached by ground crews, Terry Dorsett, director of missions of the Green Mountain Baptist Association, reported significant damage remains from the receding floodwater. In addition to washed-out roads and bridges, rivers flowed through the basements and first floors of homes, knocking out water heaters, furnaces and electrical panels.
"Since Vermont is a rural state, we don't have a Home Depot or a Lowes on every corner, so replacing these items will take time and effort," he told Baptist Press via email.
While some homes can be restored in a matter of days, many others will need weeks of cleanup and repairs, Dorsett noted.
Vermont Baptists aren't waiting around to get started; churches are sending out teams to do mud-out work on local homes that were flooded. Among them is The Waterbury Mission, a new church plant that has not even started meeting for Sunday worship. The church mobilized its core group and is working with community organizations to aid 60 families in Waterbury.
"Though we do have some officially trained disaster relief people in our state, mostly it is just each church reaching out to the families in their town that were affected and doing what needs to be done," Dorsett reported.
Wideman said Southern Baptist Disaster Relief assessors are on the ground in Vermont to pave the way for volunteer teams from across the country. New Hampshire already is sending a mud-out unit, while Texas, South Carolina and New York have promised help.
An SBDR command center at Resurrection Baptist Church in Mont Pelier should be operational tonight (Sept. 1) or Friday morning. Resurrection church will serve as a disaster relief staging site, along with Capstone Baptist Church in North Bennington. Wideman said cooks for feeding units, assessors and people for mud-out work are among the volunteers who are needed.
Dorsett said morale is high in his area as Christians go to work showing the love of Christ in what he described as the most unchurched state in the U.S.
"All the pastors I have spoken to see this as an incredible opportunity for the Gospel to move forward as the church displays Christ's love," Dorsett wrote.
Dorsett asked for prayers that communication issues would be resolved and that mud-out crews, who are working in buildings that could have been weakened by the flood, will be safe.
The rest of New England seemed to escape Hurricane Irene with relatively minor damage compared to Vermont's catastrophic flooding. Wideman said he has not received any reports from other BCNE states about damage requiring SBDR resources.
Wideman hopes God will work through the tragedy in Vermont to bring people to Himself. That might already be happening, according to Dorsett, who told of helping with mud-out work on the trailer of a woman who hadn't been to church in 20 years.
"When the group from Faith Community Church showed up to help mud-out her trailer, she said, 'Wow, churches actually care about people. They care about me!'" Dorsett wrote, adding, "If that happens enough times, God could use this disaster to spark a revival in Vermont."
John Evans is a writer based in Houston.
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