HARRISBURG, Pa. (BP) — In an unprecedented move for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, all large capacity mobile kitchens in the fleet east of the Rocky Mountains have been asked to mobilize in response to Hurricane Sandy. The goal is to begin preparing a minimum of 400,000 meals a day by Monday, Nov. 5.
“As we worked through the planning and continued to receive reports about the need, the conviction came on me that Southern Baptists need to step out in faith and mobilize now,” said North American Mission Board Disaster Relief executive director Fritz Wilson. “I contacted [NAMB] president Kevin Ezell and shared the conviction of our area command team and he agreed.”
On Thursday NAMB trustees authorized the entity to cover the travel expense for state conventions that needed the assistance in mobilizing their DR teams to the region. During the height of SBDR response to Hurricane Katrina, volunteers prepared 425,000 meals per day.
On Thursday SBDR volunteers from Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina were serving in New York and New Jersey, along with volunteers from the affected states. SBDR volunteers from those states and the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, Maryland-Delaware, New England, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and West Virginia were preparing up to 150,000 meals and were working with chainsaw and recovery units.
The New York Baptist convention’s kitchen was on its way to Staten Island where volunteers will begin serving meals Friday. “Staten Island is a high priority,” said NAMB DR response coordinator Eddie Blackmon, who is stationed at national American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Area response commander Mark Gauthier, mobilization director for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, said the feeding response is in waves. “We currently have units engaged in the response,” Gauthier said. “When you consider we are only 72 hours into the response there is a lot of ministry taking place.
“The next wave is the units on the road now from Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina. They will be serving meals on Saturday. Then units will arrive ready to cook on Sunday. Another group will be ready to serve on Monday,” Gauthier said.
“I was highly convicted that we needed to be there,” Oklahoma DR director Sam Porter said. “We must be there. This can have an impact on church planting throughout the Northeast.”
New video of a North Carolina feeding unit at Rutgers University is available for download at namb.net/sandy_rutgers_video. Kevin Ezell released a video on the SBDR response to Sandy this week. The video may be downloaded at namb.net/sandy_video.
From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., NAMB coordinates 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, along with 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 go to NAMB’s disaster relief fund website, 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.”
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.