Soon after Hurricane Florence devastated areas of the East Coast, Southern Baptists from across the country rushed to the area to provide help. Here are five facts you should know about their efforts.
1. Southern Baptists have been officially involved in disaster relief for 50 years. It began in 1968 when Texas Baptists assisted victims of Hurricane Beulah. At that time the Brotherhood Commission, along with state Baptist Brotherhood leadership, took the lead in organizing Southern Baptists to respond to disasters by creating the coordinating agency for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) and hiring the first national disaster relief director. The turning point for SBDR came in 1989 when Southern Baptists responded to Hurricane Hugo. Since that time, Southern Baptists have grown to become the third largest disaster relief organization in the country, behind only the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Nearly 70,000 Southern Baptists across the country are currently trained to handle disasters.
2. Today, SBDR units from around the country send kitchen, shower and laundry units to disaster sites, along with the hundreds of volunteers required to operate them. In storms, hurricanes and tornados, volunteer chain saw and flood clean-up crews also deploy to assist those in need. In just the first week of response after Hurricane Florence, for example, disaster relief units from at least nine state conventions set up feeding units or were preparing to do so for storm victims and emergency workers.
3. Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), also plays an important and complementary role in disaster response. They maintain a fully stocked warehouse at their Appalachian Ministry Center in Ashland, KY, primed and ready to send food and supplies when the need arises. Shelves are packed with water, prepackaged food, rolled roofing, chainsaws, generators and just about anything else a storm response calls for. Even before Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Carolinas earlier this month, Send Relief tractors trailers were on the road with supplies for distribution by their SBDR and church partners.
4. Send Relief and SBDR work alongside federal agencies like FEMA and state and local emergency response agencies.Funding comes directly from churches, mostly by funding that is passed through state conventions and the SBC’s Cooperative Program (CP).
5. The Send Relief website offers numerous resources to help you and your church prepare for natural disasters and help those in need, including a Disaster Relief Prayer Guide, a Church Preparedness Plan, funding Crisis Response Buckets (which include heavy-duty cleaning supplies, protection and tools to help families start the cleanup from water or wind damage), and participating in a disaster response effort. You can also directly volunteer or give to Disaster Relief by contacting your state Baptist convention Disaster Relief office.