by Joe Conway
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Hundreds of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers have already provided significant service in South Carolina to survivors of millennial flooding that covered the state in early October. SBDR leaders are encouraged by the outpouring of service and sacrifice.
“I am so thankful for the volunteers from many states who are willing to provide the help needed in the recovery process for those affected by the flooding,” said Mickey Caison, North American Mission Board (NAMB) interim executive director for Disaster Relief. “The government leaders and emergency managers in the communities affected have expressed their deep appreciation of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief’s ministry and volunteers who are so compassionate. Discussions have begun with community leaders about the need for rebuilding of homes in the flooded communities.”
As of Oct. 22, SBDR volunteers from 15 states have been engaged in ministry in four primary areas of the state. A total of 493 homes have been assessed for recovery, mud out or rebuild. To date, 577 homeowner assistance tasks have been completed, which include everything from minor clean up to complete mud-out jobs. Almost 70,000 meals have been prepared in the response.
In preliminary reporting SBDR volunteers and chaplains have made at least 348 gospel presentations. Thirty-five individuals have responded with professions of faith in Christ.
North Carolina Baptists have handled much of the volunteer work in the Myrtle Beach and Brunswick County, North Carolina, area. Volunteers from Alabama and Oklahoma have been serving with South Carolina volunteers in and around Columbia. Charleston has had teams serving from Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Virginia, alongside South Carolina volunteers. Horry County, S.C., ministry is being conducted by volunteers from Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. In different parts of the state teams from Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee have also been serving.
“We never felt more like a neighborhood than we do now because of neighbors helping each other,” said flood survivor Darin Cobb who lives in the Park Hill Retreat neighborhood in North Charleston. “I knew that churches help, but I’m amazed at what they’re doing.”
Throughout the response college students have been using fall breaks and weekends to serve. Students from the Baptist College of Florida were serving in Summerville this week. Another group of college students began recovery and mud-out work at an apartment complex in Columbia on October 23.
“The collegiate and local church volunteer response to the great needs is so encouraging,” said Caison. “God continues to use His people’s love, and their willingness to share that love, in such real and practical ways. We are hearing many testimonies of homeowners accepting Christ as a result of the witness of volunteers.
“We continue to discover needs in many communities in South Carolina. As the water has receded, and roads are opening up, SBDR volunteers now have access to many homes in small rural communities. Please continue to pray for the SBDR leaders, volunteers and those affected in South Carolina,” said Caison.
From ash out ministry in California, Washington and Texas, to rebuild in Detroit, SBDR volunteers are serving across the country in response to need. There are no less than eight active, major SBDR volunteer efforts ongoing, in addition to the relief efforts in South Carolina.
Volunteers from Kentucky, Ohio and Oklahoma are currently serving alongside Michigan SBDR teams to continue the long-term recovery efforts from August 2014 flooding in Detroit and the surrounding area. It was one of the largest natural disasters in Michigan history. Volunteers are needed for continuing recovery and rebuild efforts that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future.
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
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 ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers—including chaplains—and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, 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.
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.