NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding operations are now in high gear in nine Louisiana and Mississippi venues, with 83,500 hot meals prepared and delivered to Hurricane Isaac victims in the two hard-hit Gulf Coast states by noon Sept. 4.
[[email protected]@180=“Prayer is getting us through some difficult times.”
— Gibbie McMillan, Louisiana DR leader]Most of the feeding is underway in the greater New Orleans area, where some 100,000 people are still without electricity in sweltering heat six days after the Category 1 storm brought torrential rains and flooding. At one point, 700,000 were without power.
In some areas — especially Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and Jefferson parishes — the rain resulted in more flooding and residential damage than that caused by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. Much of Plaquemines remains under five feet of water.
“Our greatest need is for more mud-out people,” said Gibbie McMillan, state DR director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. “We’re in the process of trying to get in some mud-out teams from Florida and Alabama.
“In Laplace, there are 150 homes in need of mud-out,” McMillan said. “Water is just now receding in some areas, so we can get teams in. We’re trying to get people as close to affected areas as possible, but we can’t bring in people unless we have a place to house and feed them.”
McMillan said Celebration Church in Laplace, pastored by Chris Williams, was hit hard by the floodwaters and has some 18 inches of water standing in the church’s sanctuary. Many of its members are in shelters in Shreveport and Alexandria, La.
Post-traumatic stress has set in for many south Louisiana residents, especially those who also went through Hurricane Katrina in 2005, McMillan said.
“We appreciate the prayers of the people. Prayer is getting us through some difficult times. One thing I’ve learned in 12 years of doing this is that you have to take one day at a time. No two storms are alike. You have to learn to act but not react to everything going on around you,” McMillan said.
SBDR feeding units from Louisiana, Texas (Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Texas Baptist Men), Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma are preparing meals in Baton Rouge, Kenner, Covington, Westwego, Houma, Belle Chasse and Slidell, La., and in Long Beach and Pascagoula, Miss.
If necessary, Southern Baptist feeding kitchens from the six state conventions have the capacity to potentially serve up to 225,000 meals a day in Louisiana and Mississippi. After SBDR volunteers cook and package the meals, the food is being delivered to flood victims by the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army. In some remote Louisiana areas, helicopters or ferries may have to be used to deliver food in lieu of trucks, McMillan said.
In addition to feeding operations, state DR teams from Louisiana, Missouri, Texas (SBTC and Texas Baptist Men), Arkansas, Oklahoma and other state conventions are deployed in Louisiana, assessing damages; starting mud-out, chainsaw and other recovery jobs; providing childcare for victims; providing shower and laundry units as well as power generation; and ministering through chaplaincy. A South Carolina DR team is serving at the Red Cross incident command in Baton Rouge. Texas Baptist Men staff are manning the North American Mission Board’s incident command center at First Baptist Church in Covington, La.
In addition to feeding in Pascagoula and Long Beach, the Mississippi Baptist Convention has volunteers doing chainsaw and mud-out work. Jim Didlake, Mississippi DR director, said mud-out needs are increasing, especially in the Moss Point and Pearlington areas along the coast.
According to the Associated Press, the number of victims huddling in shelters since Isaac hit a week ago has dropped from 4,000 to 2,800. Isaac has claimed eight lives — six in Louisiana and two in Mississippi, according to CNN. Insured damages inflicted by Isaac may top the $2 billion mark, according to insurance company AIG. That figure does not include the non-insured.
From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the SBC’s 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, 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, including the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB’s disaster relief fund via namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.