Each of the 60,000-pound Freightliner rigs is filled to the max with 20 pallets containing 320 rolls of plastic roof sheeting, wooden strips and nails destined for the Louisiana-Mississippi Gulf Coast, where dozens of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers will use the materials to protect the homes of Hurricane Isaac victims.
While the slow-moving hurricane continues to grind across the New Orleans area today with 75 mph winds and drenching rainfall that may top 20 inches, Kirkland and Helms will make camp tonight in Mobile, avoiding the current gusty winds and downpour in New Orleans. On Thursday, they'll proceed to staging sites in the hardest-hit areas of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Kirkland and Helms are members of the Tennessee Baptist Convention's disaster relief team. Kirkland is from Loudon, Tenn.; Helms from Johnson City.
"This is our first opportunity to deploy this roofing material, and we're excited to have this resource for the states," said Cathy Miller, disaster relief team member at NAMB's offices in Alpharetta, Ga. "Residents can use it to get their homes covered up so further damage can be prevented until permanent repairs can be made."
Miller said trained Southern Baptist DR volunteers across the SBC should immediately advise their state directors if they are available for assignment to the Gulf Coast. Volunteers in several states are on standby for feeding, chainsaw work, childcare, mud-out, chaplaincy and laundry/shower units.
"Southern Baptists need to pray for the hurricane victims, the first responders and for the safety of our disaster relief volunteers who will go in," Miller said. "We also need to pray for patience because we have to let the storm get out of the way so our state disaster relief directors can get folks in to assess the damages and the needs.
"More than anything, we need to pray for opportunities to use this disaster to share the Gospel," Miller said.
Hurricane Isaac made landfall about 3:15 a.m. Wednesday, about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, according to the National Hurricane Center. In the greater New Orleans area, several hundred thousand residential and business customers are without electricity, and the power outage may last several days, according to Entergy Corp.
But as of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers' $14.5 billion network of levees and floodwalls was keeping floodwaters out of New Orleans proper, unlike during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A storm surge of up to 12 feet has been predicted by the hurricane center for southeastern Louisiana and Mississippi.
NAMB disaster relief team leader Mickey Caison is in Washington, D.C., representing Southern Baptists in working with FEMA, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other partners at the National Response Coordination Center.
From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the SBC's 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB's disaster relief fund via namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. 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. Designate checks for "Disaster Relief."
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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