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Baptists to see ‘high-capacity’ Sandy response in N.Y. & N.J.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (BP) — Wind, flood, fire and snow have combined to displace thousands of residents in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and West Virginia. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are on their way to the hardest-hit areas in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, bringing help and hope in the midst of crisis.

Southern Baptist church planter Wayne Burton in Jersey City, N.J., is among the millions living in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Burton and his wife Erin moved to the city several years ago to put down roots and begin planting a church.

As the storm approached, the Burtons prepared their apartment before evacuating to a nearby hotel. Returning home early Tuesday, they were met with extensive flooding that had reached into their apartment and destroyed most of their belongings.

“As Southern Baptist Disaster Relief we have a hope and a ministry” to come alongside the Burtons as they labor with Jersey City residents in the daunting recovery that lies ahead, Bruce Poss, DR coordinator for the North American Mission Board. Poss is the Southern Baptist liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency serving in Washington, D.C., for the response to Hurricane Sandy. “This is our time to do what God has commissioned us to do.”

SBDR units from across the country were heading toward staging areas in New York and New Jersey Wednesday and assessments and requests for assistance were being made. One of the largest requests, for as many as 100,000 meals per day, has come from New York City.

“We are working with New York City, the American Red Cross and other partners to ramp up for a high capacity response,” said Fritz Wilson, DR executive director for the North American Mission Board. “We have probably not had a single-event response request of this level since Hurricane Katrina.”

Wilson likened the groundwork necessary to respond to the request to that of a church planter in a new area.

“Especially in a place like New York where we are plowing new ground, this is much like a church planter who moves into new community and must work to gain trust and become accepted,” Wilson said.

“This response has been similar to any other, in that the first 72 hours are hectic, but things are working well,” he said. “We’ve had some logistical challenges, particularly because of the size of the storm and the high population density, but we have teams serving and preparing to serve.”

While one SBDR kitchen in Maryland finished its deployment there with the close of an American Red Cross shelter, as many as 10 other feeding units were on the road to be prepared to begin serving meals Thursday and Friday.

In addition to New York, units are responding to Newark and Hammonton N.J. Assessment is continuing for the Connecticut coast that also was hard hit.

In West Virginia, heavy snows have caused multiple roofs to collapse, particularly at higher elevations, state DR director Delton Beall reported. Beall said five people were confirmed dead in the state from the blizzard conditions and 200,000 homes were without power. Both state conventions in Virginia are responding to the needs in West Virginia.

SBDR volunteers serving from both affected and partnership responding state conventions include the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland-Delaware, Mississippi, New England, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania-South Jersey, South Carolina, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell released a new video on the SBDR response to Hurricane Sandy on Wednesday. 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 via 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.

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  • Joe Conway