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Baptist feeding units begin their work as weakened Gustav advances inland

POSTED on Monday, Sept. 1, 2008.

ALPHARETTA (BP)-As Hurricane Gustav came ashore early Monday morning and started creeping its way across Louisiana, Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers were already busy preparing meals for evacuees and standing by to move into storm ravaged area.

In Louisiana, volunteers are preparing meals near an evacuation center in Shreveport. In addition, a kitchen unit is located in Alexandria but won’t be in operational until volunteers who were evacuated northward to safety could return later Monday or Tuesday. Baptists are preparing meals at five evacuation sites in Texas: Longview, Tyler, Bryan, Lufkin and Marshall. Units also are either active or near active at evacuee sites in Louisville, Ky., Kingsport, Tenn. and Ft. Smith, Ark.

“We prepared 2,000 meals for lunch today and are planning another 2,000 for dinner,” said Coy Webb, disaster relief associate for the Kentucky Baptist Association. “They have told us to expect some additional evacuees as the week continues.”

Evacuees are being sheltered at the Kentucky state fairgrounds in the Expo Center, Webb said. The Baptist kitchen unit is on site preparing meals while Red Cross volunteers serve evacuees inside. Webb said the unit has the capacity to prepare up to 10,000 meals a day if needed.

In Arkansas, Southern Baptists are preparing food for evacuees being housed at Fort Chaffee near the city of Fort Smith.

“We began setup Saturday and served 5,300 meals Sunday,” said Robby Tingle, team leader for missions ministry at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Tingle said Arkansas Baptists will also have units heading into Louisiana as soon as conditions are safe and will be ready to make Baptist campgrounds in the state available for evacuees if needed.

“We’re praying for the safety of all of the evacuees and that the damage will be as minimal as possible,” Tingle said.

As the storm clears, Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers will move southward into Louisiana, Texas and other effected areas.

“All of the units we’ve activated are poised to move beyond their staging points as soon as the storm clears and assessments can be done on the ministry sites,” said Mickey Caison, team leader for NAMB’s adult volunteer mobilization area.

Caison said the storm is “looking more like a flooding event at this point instead of a wind event.” Caison said Baptist response will shift slightly because of that but the immediate response will still emphasize kitchen units that can meet the anticipated high demand for food for evacuees.

At NAMB’s office in Alpharetta, Ga., staff and volunteers manned phones Monday and kept in close touch with state Baptist conventions, the American Red Cross, FEMA and other disaster relief partners.

“Nothing is more important for NAMB this week than supporting our state partners and volunteers who are working Disaster Relief,” said Geoff Hammond, NAMB’s president, as he spent time at NAMB’s Disaster Operations Center Monday morning. “We’ve had employees working all day and some all night providing the logistical support needed to support the work of Southern Baptists in the field.”

Hammond said resources, staff and volunteers will be available for the duration of the relief effort. He also asked Southern Baptists to “prayerfully consider” donating to NAMB’s Disaster Relief fund.

“The high price of diesel fuel and gasoline has made this a more costly response,” Hammond said.


Mike Ebert is coordinator of publications and media relations for the North American Mission Board. To donate to the Southern Baptist disaster relief fund, visit www.namb.net and click the Disaster Relief icon.

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  • Mike Ebert