ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist Disaster Relief staff and volunteers had barely closed the books on 2008’s myriad of natural disasters when January’s devastating ice storms across America’s midsection kicked 2009 off to a fast start.
Highlighted by Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana and Hurricane Ike in Texas, Southern Baptist volunteers in 2008 also were dispatched for food preparation, cleanup, chaplaincy and other ministry in response to tornadoes in the South and Midwest, 500-year floods in the Midwest, a Nevada earthquake, winter ice storms in Kentucky and Missouri and wildfires in California and Utah.
“We were every bit as busy in 2008 as we were in 2007,” said Terry Henderson, disaster relief operations consultant for the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. Henderson said NAMB’s Alpharetta-based disaster operations center — partnering with state conventions — responded to 13 multi-state disasters last year.
Henderson explained that when disasters are smaller in scope and localized to a particular state — when national coordination by NAMB is not required — state conventions often provide disaster relief with their own trained volunteers and equipment.
Unique to 2008: the widespread scale flooding across numerous Midwest states. Henderson said 2005 continues to be the benchmark year for SBC Disaster Relief work because of the large number of hurricanes that year, including Katrina.
At the close of each year, Henderson and his team at NAMB collect disaster relief statistics from each of the state conventions also responding to disasters during the year and combine the results into an annual report.
According to that report, more than 83,000 trained Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers responded to some 50 disaster “incidents” during 2008 and chalked up the following statistics:
— 119,000 “volunteer days” worked.
— 7.9 million meals prepared for disaster victims, responders and volunteer workers.
— 9,300 chainsaw jobs completed following floods, severe storms, tornadoes and ice storms.
— 2,427 mud-out jobs completed in the wake of floods and storms.
— 171 repair jobs.
— 295 roofing jobs.
— 90,500 showers provided via SBC shower units in the wake of local disasters.
— 34,000 loads of laundry washed in disaster relief laundry units.
— 247,000 gallons of water purified.
— child care provided for nearly 1,200 children.
— almost 21,000 ministry contacts, including 3,500 Gospel presentations, 9,700 chaplaincy contacts and 436 professions of faith.
More than 5 million of the nearly 8 million total meals prepared and distributed by SBC Disaster Relief volunteers in 2008 came on the heels of just two catastrophes, Hurricanes Gustav (1.25 million meals) in Louisiana and Ike (3.8 million meals) in Texas.
At the height of the Southern Baptists’ response to Ike in Texas, for instance, nearly 30 feeding kitchens at 20 different feeding sites partnered with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army to prepare and distribute two meals a day for hurricane victims, disaster relief volunteers and law enforcement personnel.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.