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Baptist relief at 3.7M meals & counting

GALVESTON, Texas (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers have prepared 3.7 million hot meals for victims and trained volunteers in the 30-day aftermath of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in Louisiana and Texas.

Another 100,000 meals were prepared in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Some 30,000-40,000 meals are now being cooked daily at SBC feeding units now based near Scholes Field on Galveston Island. The units are staffed by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Texas Baptist Men, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and Illinois Baptist State Association.

Don Gann, men’s ministry consultant for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Clinton, Miss., has been appointed incident commander, based at a command unit on Galveston Island provided by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Gann has been serving with his fellow Mississippians’ DR (disaster relief) teams in Lake Charles and Sulfur, La., and in Natchez and Diamondhead, Miss.

Two other command units provided by Texas Baptist Men and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia also will set up on the island to provide command/communications.

“We praise the Lord for the great work already done in Galveston,” Gann said. “Our plan is to now get a base camp set up on Galveston so mud-out, chainsaw and other recovery teams can get in and start working on the island.”

Gann praised Galveston-area churches for their support of arriving recovery teams, although he said four of the Baptist churches he’s visited in Galveston sustained water damage or worse themselves.

Estimating that some 100 DR volunteers ultimately will be working in Galveston, Gann and his team first must establish a place for the volunteers to be housed -– which possibly could be at First Baptist churches in Texas City and Lamarque, about 15 minutes north of Galveston on Interstate 45. Two weeks ago, Galveston-bound traffic on I-45 South was bumper to bumper. Gann said the traffic remains heavy but is now moving.

Gann said the Oklahoma convention is taking the lead on recovery projects in Galveston. Other heavy mud-out work is predicted for Port Arthur, Rose City, Bridge City and Hamshire, Texas.

“We really need some trained disaster relief volunteers for mud-out,” Gann said. “What we really need are some volunteers who are flexible -– both in terms of what they can do and where they are willing to work and live while in Galveston.”

Upon arriving in Galveston, Gann said the devastation reminded him of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. “It doesn’t matter if a house got four feet or 10 feet of water. Our mud-out teams still have to do the same amount and kind of work.”

Local recovery work -– chainsaw and mud-out operations — could go another six months, said Terry Henderson, national disaster relief director for the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga.

Now that DR feeding operations are in Galveston itself, two feeding kitchens -– one at Angleton, Texas, and a mega-kitchen at Texas City -– are closing down early this week.

Three other mega-kitchens are still preparing and distributing food at a ball park in League City, at Houston’s First Baptist Church and at a former K-Mart parking lot in Baytown. These three kitchens produced some 50,000 lunches and suppers on Sept. 28.

While power is finally back on in Texas City, some Texas towns may not see power restored until Christmas, said Henderson, who had just returned from two weeks at hurricane-damaged areas on the Louisiana/Texas Gulf Coast.

“A big difference in Hurricanes Ike and Katrina is that power outages were greater after Ike than after Katrina,” Henderson said. As late as last week, one in four Houston residents were still without power, according to local news reports.

Overall, since Gustav struck Louisiana on Sept. 1 and Ike hit Texas and Louisiana on Sept. 13, Southern Baptist disaster relief has recorded nearly 29,000 volunteer days; more than 3.7 million meals prepared; 70 mud-out and nearly 2,800 chainsaw jobs completed; 34,000 showers provided; and some 19,000 ministry contacts, including 800 Gospel presentations, 141 professions of faith and 2,400 chaplaincy contacts.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. To donate to Southern Baptist disaster relief ministry efforts, call toll-free 866-407-6262 or visit www.namb.net.

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  • Mickey Noah