By Mike Ebert
WASHINGTON, DC — President Donald Trump met with leaders of the three largest disaster relief organizations in the United States at the White House Friday to discuss relief efforts in South Texas in the wake of historic flooding and other damage left by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey.
Included at the meeting were Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR), represented by North American Mission Board (NAMB) president Kevin Ezell, American Red Cross, represented by the group’s president, Gail McGovern, and the Salvation Army, represented by Col. David Hudson, the group’s USA National Chief Secretary.
After a 25-minute private meeting in the oval office with the president and first lady, reporters were invited in for an impromptu update about relief efforts in Texas.
“We are pleased to receive an update from Gail, David and Kevin on the work of the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief,” Trump told reporters. “The Federal Government is on the ground bringing its significant resources to bear, and I want to assure these organizations, and the others involved, that we will continue to coordinate with them and bring all of the relief and the comfort and everything else that we absolutely can to the Gulf Coast.”
In his remarks at the briefing, Ezell spotlighted partnerships that make such responses possible.
"We're three different organizations but work best as one,” Ezell said, referring to the SBDR partnership with American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. “The joy of this is we really do lock arms and have the capacity to feed over 400,000 people a day.”
Ezell also thanked Trump for the role the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has played during this and other crises.
“We have come through many disasters, and they have done a fantastic job of stepping up to the plate and being prepared and allowing us to volunteer in the way we're prepared to do."
After the White House meeting Ezell said he was struck by how personally engaged in the relief effort both Trump and his wife, Melania, are.
“I was grateful to see the compassion they expressed toward those who have been impacted by this,” Ezell said. “It was genuine compassion. You can tell the first lady has really been moved by this.”
The meeting took place as SBDR units are more fully deploying across south Texas. Feeding teams are now preparing thousands of hot meals each day for storm survivors, many of whom are still living in shelters. Other SBDR units are providing hot showers, laundry services and chain saw crews who are removing trees and other debris from rooftops and yards.
In addition to traditional SBDR work, NAMB is coordinating a Send Relief volunteer effort to utilize churches and volunteers who have no prior disaster relief training. Churches and individuals can register at namb.net/Harvey to be part of the effort.
“Our faith compels us to serve those in need. Southern Baptists were invited here today because we have a 50-year record of helping people in times of disaster,” Ezell said after the White House meeting. “When we all work together and cooperate, that’s very powerful. My prayer is that Southern Baptists will continue partnering to meet the great needs in South Texas.”
To donate to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Send Relief efforts, visit namb.net/Harvey.
Mike Ebert is executive director of Public Relations for the North American Mission Board.