Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How To Prepare Your Church To Help With Disaster Relief

As you read Mark’s article that follows, continue in prayer for the areas of Texas and Louisiana affected by Harvey, and for the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and possibly Cuba and Florida that are being or may be battered by Hurricane Irma beginning today. -Marty

When the largest rainstorm in U.S. history evoked historic flooding, it also elicited a heroic response—which has been beautiful. One week has passed since Harvey landed as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas. As of this writing he is still pestering neighborhoods like mine 800 miles away in Nashville. Although Harvey has left Houston, I’m grateful rescue workers are flooding into it.

The fourth largest city in the U.S. is getting lots of love from ministries, agencies, and families from around the country. Our first responders deserve our prayers, appreciation, and respect: military, law enforcement, fire, and medical. Fire Chief Sam Pena said his department had responded to nearly 7,600 calls for water rescues. This week as I drove past a convoy of utility workers headed to south Texas from multiple states I was reminded to pray for them also.

Our prayers and gratitude also go out to the countless lay-volunteers who are serving today. For example, my denomination started mobilizing thousands of volunteers before Hurricane Harvey even made landfall. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers have been rolling into disaster zones for 50 years, providing hot meals, clean water, child care, laundry, structure repairs, rebuilding, and more. With a trained volunteer force exceeding 80,000 people, SBDR is the third largest disaster relief agency in the United States.

In 2011 I watched the aftermath of an EF5 tornado that killed 158 people. It was only 250 miles north of the church I was pastoring in Arkansas. All I knew to do was ask our people to pray and give. I had been pastoring for twenty-four years and was tired of doing nothing after floods and tornados bullied their way through neighboring Arkansas towns.

My discontent translated into a phone call to the Arkansas Baptist Convention. They eagerly arranged a disaster relief training at our church. Over thirty members showed up and before long we had organized DR Unit 1 in our county, with a fully equipped trailer full of chain saws and other tools and supplies useful in disaster areas. This team grew to include other churches in our association and led many of us into different disaster zones in the U.S. and Haiti, including our own back yard when an EF4 crushed our neighboring towns of Mayflower and Vilonia.

This time we were ready.

If you are a Southern Baptist pastor or member who is interested in helping these fine Texans during their hour of need, just call your state convention and ask. There will still be plenty to do in Houston this time next year, and I assure you the DR volunteers will still be loving their neighbors.

Featured image credit Baptist Press, used with permission.

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