ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–While Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts approach record proportions in the wake of Hurricane Charley, coordinators of the national response are calling on churches to pray fervently for the victims and volunteers dealing with the storm’s aftermath across southwest Florida.
“It’s important that Southern Baptists throughout North America continue to pray about the recovery efforts in Florida,” said Jim Burton, director of the North American Mission Board’s volunteer mobilization team. “Though the national media interest will begin to wane, our operations are escalating. As we mobilize more Southern Baptist disaster volunteers into Florida, we need to pray for traveling mercies, for protection as they work and for discernment as they meet and minister to victims.”
As of mid-afternoon Aug. 18, about 800 Southern Baptist volunteers representing 15 Baptist state conventions were helping thousands of displaced Floridians whose homes were destroyed or damaged by Charley’s 145-mph winds.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had counted more than 88,000 homes damaged as of 6 a.m. Aug. 18, with more than 140,000 residents in need of shelter. Meanwhile, nearly 450,000 customers remain without electricity.
Mickey Caison, manager of NAMB’s Disaster Operations Center, said the current count of nearly 100 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units activated in southwest Florida could climb to as many as 175 over the next several weeks and months.
“We need to pray for the leadership who are trying to make decisions in the midst of all this,” Caison said. “It’s a very difficult job without power or electricity when trying to communicate and make decisions about meeting the needs.”
And, he said, “We need to pray for those who have been affected by this disaster, for their grieving, for their losses.”
Specifically, Burton said prayer is needed for:
— travel safety for volunteers.
— protection over the volunteers as they work in difficult and dangerous situations.
— patience and mercy for the victims who struggle to rebuild their lives.
— wisdom for leaders who are managing the disaster response.
— physical strength for disaster relief volunteers as they fight the fatigue that comes from working long hours in the heat.
— God’s will to be accomplished in all that is done.
— the eternal salvation of many who lost all they owned.
— the physical, emotional and spiritual strength of local pastors and church staff who will be ministering to storm victims in the months and weeks ahead.
Burton emphasized that Southern Baptists are committed long-term to helping Floridians whose lives have been ripped apart by Hurricane Charley rebuild their futures on a firm foundation.
“As devastating as Hurricane Charley was to Florida, it’s bringing out the best in Southern Baptists,” Burton said. “Perhaps no other ministry in Southern Baptist life communicates the care and compassion we have for others as does disaster relief.
“Many of the victims are now angry, and some of that anger will be directed toward God,” Burton added. “We need to pray that the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers in Florida will truly be the hands and feet of a caring God and that the victims see God’s love through us.”
The latest activations of disaster relief teams include:
— North Carolina Baptist Men activated a mobile kitchen unit, shower unit, a generator and a water purification unit for Pine Castle Baptist Church in Orlando.
— Texas Baptist Men activated a mobile kitchen unit, shower unit, two chainsaw/recovery teams and a generator for Bartow, Fla.
— The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio each activated a chainsaw/recovery team for First Baptist Church, Kissimmee, the newly designated North Incident Command Post.
— The South Carolina Baptist Convention also activated two chainsaw/recovery teams for First Baptist, Kissimmee, and Texas Baptist Men activated a communication unit.
— The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware activated a four-member kitchen team at First Baptist Church, Kissimmee.
— The Virginia Baptist Mission Board activated a mobile kitchen unit and shower unit for First Baptist Church, Punta Gorda, and a chainsaw/recovery team for South Biscayne Baptist Church, North Port, site of the South Incident Command Post.
— The Kentucky Baptist Convention activated a mobile kitchen unit and a chainsaw/recovery team for McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers.
— NAMB activated an additional shower unit for First Baptist Church, Punta Gorda.
The following state conventions remain on standby for activation: Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and West Virginia.
Contributions to offset direct costs of the disaster relief response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort, or to the North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.
For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr.