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Baptist DR readying for Hurricane Florence onslaught

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — As Hurricane Florence continues its trajectory toward the Carolina coastline, the North American Mission Board is coordinating the national Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response, along with moving supplies from Send Relief’s warehouse in Ashland, Ky.

SBC President J.D. Greear, in a video distributed by NAMB, is calling on Southern Baptists to “display the generosity of Christ” through the upcoming disaster effort.

Eddie Blackmon, a disaster response specialist with NAMB, has been at the the American Red Cross National Capital Region headquarters in Fairfax, Va., in the Washington, D.C., metro area preparing for the initial feeding response.

“Currently, SBDR disaster relief directors across all states have committed 22 mobile field kitchens with a per day meal capacity of 315,000 meals,” Blackmon said. “All of these kitchens are on standby with Red Cross, most likely to receive an activation notice on Friday (Sept. 14).”

Once activated, the kitchens will move from their respective states and be staged until they are assigned to feeding locations as needed.

“North Carolina, in their planning, is talking about having as many as 15 to 20 feeding sites in the state” hosted by Baptist churches, Blackmon said.

NAMB’s national SBDR office also has prepared and transported pastor packs for local pastors in serving their communities, with distribution through Baptist state conventions in North and South Carolina as well as Virginia.

The pastor packs were prepared and shipped from the Appalachia Ministry Center of Send Relief, NAMB’s compassion ministry arm. Along with the pastor packs that shipped Wednesday morning (Sept. 12), NAMB has been loading semi-trucks with disaster relief supplies to be used by SBDR teams in states affected by Hurricane Florence.

The pastor packs will include a generator, chainsaw and water filter along with various supplies needed to operate the equipment.

“This is much like what we did in Puerto Rico in 2017,” said Sam Porter, NAMB’s national director for disaster relief. “These packs will go to the state conventions for them to share, especially with the small, rural churches that will lose electricity.

“We are sending lots of Shockwave mold remediation, lots of water and other supplies that the state disaster relief teams have asked for,” Porter said. When and where those supplies will be delivered will be dictated by the effects of Hurricane Florence.

Greear, in the NAMB video, noted that “there are a number of things you can do as a Southern Baptist.”

“Number one, you can pray. You can pray for those who are going to be affected by this tragedy, pray that God will be merciful, that there will be safety, pray that the rescue crews will have everything they need.

“Secondly, you can give. If you go to NAMB.net, right in the middle of the page there’s a big thing that says Hurricane Florence, and there’s a way that you can give and get involved right there.

“In addition to that, it has a way that you can go down to your state convention and give through your state convention.

“This is a real place that we as the body of Christ can serve our community…. We can show that we have a message of love, not just in what Jesus did in dying for our sins, but He came to rescue and save. And we can put that on display.”

Throughout the preparations for Florence, SBDR, both nationally and locally, has been cooperating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state emergency management teams along with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.

“This is a collaborative effort,” Porter said. “We’re all walking in lock-step, especially given all that we experienced last year. This is potentially as destructive as anything we saw with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria.”

South Carolina SBDR teams will begin feeding this evening, providing meals for first responders who are staged at the North Charleston Colosseum ahead of the hurricane’s landfall.

“It’s a little out of the box for us, working with a pre-event,” said Randy Creamer, disaster relief director in South Carolina, but they are ready for whatever may come once the storm makes landfall.

“Because we had a 1000-year flood in 2015, a direct impact from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017, our guys and gals have this fine-tuned pretty doggone good,” Creamer said. “For mass feeding, we’re probably the best equipped as we’ve been since we got started in disaster relief ministry.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper told Fox News Wednesday morning about the state’s response plan, mentioning emergency shelters set up for people to ride out the storm.

“We know that this big storm is going to be widespread” Cooper said in describing the state’s decision to spread resources across the state. “Almost every North Carolinian will be affected in some way or another. So, we’ve gone on and distributed those supplies, and we’re getting ready for this thing.”

Over the last three days, FEMA also has prepositioned resources after coordinating with the leadership in states that will be affected.

“We try to fully understand their response and recovery goals or any gaps they may have in their ability to respond,” FEMA administrator Brock Long told Fox News Wednesday. “Based on that, we preposition teams, commodities, from emergency communications to water, food, whatever it may be — what we think they’re going to need to be ready to go.”

Southern Baptists will be there alongside fellow national agencies providing support and helping those who make it through the storm.

The cooperative effort of Southern Baptists, Porter said, “means that, whether or not a Southern Baptist ever puts on a yellow shirt, they’re there serving and working to meet needs in the face of the crisis because they pray, and they give.”

To learn more about how to donate or volunteer, visit namb.net/hurricane-florence.

Watch SBC President J.D. Greear’s call for Southern Baptists to respond to Hurricane Florence: