The sheer breadth of the responses -- with hundreds of volunteers simultaneously engaged -- is a humbling reminder of the enduring spirit of Southern Baptist service, SBDR leaders said.
"When everyone else gets tired, we reload," said Sam Porter, disaster relief director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. "We'll be here until we are not needed anymore."
In addition to Oklahoma SBDR volunteers, some 200 strong, responding to tornado damage in the Oklahoma City area, volunteers also are serving in Oklahoma from Arkansas, California, Iowa, Kansas-Nebraska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Tennessee and Texas Baptist Men.
SBDR volunteers also are serving in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and New York.
"The depth of work disaster relief volunteers are involved in now is astounding," said Fritz Wilson, executive director for disaster relief at the North American Mission Board. "And they continue to serve."
Wilson said if rain and flood predictions hold, there might be additional needs for response in Midwest states like Iowa. Violent storms Thursday caused SBDR volunteers and leaders in the NAMB mobile command center at First Baptist Church in Moore to evacuate to the church briefly.
"We've completed 200 cleanup jobs and have another 140 to go in Hannibal (Mo.)," said Dwaine Carter, SBDR director for the Missouri Baptist Convention. "We have 13 Missouri chainsaw teams working and have four crews en route from Arkansas. We are four or five days from completing chainsaw work."
Carter said a Missouri SBDR kitchen ceased operation Sunday with more than 4,700 meals prepared. Hannibal-LaGrange University is housing volunteers.
In Kokomo and Tipton, Ind., mud-out job requests continue to come to John Rogers, disaster relief coordinator for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. One of his volunteers had an opportunity to share the Gospel with a family May 24.
"Doug Dieterly, the chairman of NAMB's trustees, is one of our volunteers and is very active in responses," Rogers said. "He went with us to serve in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. On Friday he was working with one of our mud-out teams and was able to lead a 22-year-old woman and her mother to faith in Christ. That is what it is all about."
Texas Baptist Men are responding to cleanup needs in West and mud out requests from May 25 flooding in San Antonio. TMB disaster relief director Terry Henderson said that on Thursday crews demolished the first of 50 homes to be razed in West, the result of a fertilizer plant explosion. TBM and SBTC teams have already responded to the first 40 of 200 mud-out jobs in San Antonio. And in Saginaw, Mich., mud-out work will resume during the first week of June.
"Partners have had a huge impact in our response," Porter said of the work from back-to-back EF4 and EF5 tornadoes May 19 and 20 near Oklahoma City. "Things are going well and the volunteers are doing great work."
Porter said Oklahoma plans to follow the model employed by Missouri SBDR in Joplin, Mo., by putting chaplains on the ground in the affected areas of Moore and Shawnee, Okla., allowing them to walk through the devastated neighborhoods.
"Many of these residents, perhaps 25 percent, did not have insurance. Many are facing total property loss. We want 30 chaplains walking the streets and ministering to the people," Porter said.
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers and chaplains and 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, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
To donate to SBDR efforts, contact the Baptist convention in your state or visit 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."
Joe Conway 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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