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Aid steady as floodwaters roll on

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–As Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa dry out from the worst flooding in more than a decade, Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers continue pouring into the region to provide assistance for homeowners and support for emergency response personnel.

To date, Southern Baptists have logged almost 2,000 volunteer hours and prepared more than 95,000 meals. In Wisconsin and Iowa, meal preparation continues as efforts shift to assessing homeowner needs and assisting with “mud-out” efforts.

In Wisconsin, where 19 Southern Baptists Disaster Relief units are actively responding, Wade Gayler, incident commander for Southern Baptist relief efforts, says the requests for mud-out assistance are coming in quickly.

“We have 170 open active job orders for mud-out work,” Gayler said. “Mud-out involves removing everything from about one foot above the water line down. That includes removing sheetrock, insulation, cabinets, appliances — everything. Then we’ll go through with a pressure washer and remove all the dirt. Finally, we treat the area with a hospital sanitizer and then air it out for a few days.”

The process can be time-intensive, depending on the size of the area being cleaned. “A team of six or seven can spend three days on it if it’s a full-sized, finished basement,” Gayler said.

He noted that most shelters are closing and many homeowners who had flooding in only the lower level of their houses are returning home.

“They still need meals though, so we are preparing them and the Red Cross is going through the neighborhoods delivering meals to homeowners,” Gayler said. He added that frustrations are rising in some areas as homeowners learn their homes are being condemned by the government and they won’t be able to return.

Gayler asked that Christians “pray for the communities. There is so much pain and anger. Pray they can pull together and work through this.”

In the midst of the suffering and loss, Southern Baptists in Wisconsin are celebrating the new spiritual births of six people led to Christ by chaplains who are counseling homeowners.

“That’s the best news out of this whole thing,” Gayler said.

In Iowa, volunteers are still waiting for floodwaters to recede enough to begin mud-out operations. There are 20 disaster relief units currently on the ground assisting with home assessments, mud-out, meal preparation, water purification, showers and laundry.

As of Thursday, more than 665 volunteer days had been served in Iowa, with more than 55,000 meals prepared.

At the national level, Terry Henderson of the North American Mission Board’s Disaster Operations Center said Southern Baptists are looking “ahead of the flood” to communities downstream.

“Right now we are concerned about Missouri, where three levees broke Thursday, and Illinois,” Henderson said. “But we are looking all the way down stream to New Orleans and making plans.”

Henderson also said Southern Baptists are planning for a long-term rebuilding effort similar to the one that has been underway in post-Katrina New Orleans.

“This is going to cover a much wider area than a hurricane, so we are preparing for a significant long-term rebuilding effort,” Henderson said.

The supply of Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers is holding up, but Henderson said several factors are putting a strain on volunteers.

“Many churches go on mission trips over the summer, so we have volunteers serving with World Changers and Families On Mission and other church mission trips,” he said. “They are pretty stretched. We have had two years of continual disasters. Some volunteers are finishing one disaster response and heading right out to another.”

Donations for disaster relief may be directed to the North American Mission Board by visiting www.namb.net and clicking on “Give Now.”
Mike Ebert is publications coordinator for the North American Mission Board.

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  • Mike Ebert