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Dakota/Minn. flood relief: historic ministry opportunity

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. (BP)–A flood of historic proportions and destructiveness has opened doors of opportunity for Southern Baptists in the Dakotas and Minnesota that comes once in a generation, according to Mickey Caison, national disaster relief director for the Brotherhood Commission.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to gain acceptability and credibility for the Dakota Southern Baptist Fellowship and the Minnesota-Wisconsin Southern Baptist Convention,” Caison said. “We have tremendous opportunities to minister, probably our best ever in this region to establish a Southern Baptist presence.”
Southern Baptist response to the flooding thus far includes three disaster relief feeding units, from Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas, mobile child-care units from Illinois and Ohio, a mobile shower unit from Georgia and four mud-out units, three from Kentucky and one from Georgia. Other units in these states are on standby, as well as units in Arkansas and South Carolina.
Caison said the shower unit, from the Home Mission Board/Mallory Baptist Association, will be providing 100 showers a day based on the requests for mud-out crews.
“This is most likely going to be the deepest commitment Southern Baptists have ever made to a disaster relief effort, probably greater than (Hurricane) Andrew,” Caison noted. “We can touch as many lives or more than we did in the entire Andrew relief work. We need people’s prayers and we need their support. Only 96 Southern Baptist churches and missions are in the Dakota fellowship with 6,000 resident members. There are only three Southern Baptist churches in the entire region.”
Off-site disaster relief coordinator Jim Burton echoed Caison’s concern.
“Fiscally and physically this is a huge commitment on the part of Southern Baptists. The logistics of this effort are more challenging than anything we’ve faced before. It took 36 hours’ driving time and $350 in fuel costs just to bring the shower unit from Albany, Ga. Our prayer is that Southern Baptists’ vision for ministering in this region of our country will meet the challenge,” Burton said.
Prospective volunteers should contact the Brotherhood departments in their respective state conventions. People desiring to assist relief efforts financially should make checks payable to the Brotherhood Commission, “For Dakota/Minnesota Floods,” and mail them to the Brotherhood Commission, 1548 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN 38104. The Brotherhood Commission coordinates multi-state disaster response in behalf of all Southern Baptists.
As of Wednesday, May 7, the three Baptist feeding units had provided more than 233,000 meals. The Texas units had served 183,173 meals; the Oklahoma unit, 33,808; and the Ohio unit, 16,060. Feeding unit coordinator Jerry Bob Taylor said the Oklahoma and Texas units were handling the needs of the Grand Forks, N.D., and East Grand Forks, Minn., areas.
A decision on moving the Ohio unit to the Canadian border area was expected May 9. “Water is receding on the Red River in the area near the border,” Taylor recounted. “They are at the same point now that we were two weeks ago. The water has receded just enough for a few roads to open. We have people scouting a spot to relocate the Ohio unit up there.”
The work of the feeding units has not gone unappreciated, Taylor noted, estimating the feeding operation could last another six weeks.
“Word spread real quick that the Baptists were cooking meals. People have been just great. We haven’t heard a single complaint at any unit. One person went through our drive-through feeding unit and said this wasn’t fast food, it was too good. We’re having a strong impact here. Some of the volunteers have been able to go out into the neighborhoods and meet with people. This has been a positive experience,” Taylor said.
W.D. “Doc” Lindsey, state director of missions and evangelism for Minnesota/Wisconsin Baptists, said he has been impressed with the effort of volunteers and sees tremendous potential for future ministry.
“I’ve been blown away by the response and by the opportunity to meet people’s needs. It is in times like these that the gospel can be spread. The Lord sometimes allows things like this to open doors. I have been encouraged. It’s a big stretch for us, but the future is bright for our work,” Lindsey said.
While a tremendous amount of prayer support and financial aid is still needed, Lindsey also has been encouraged by the early response to offer assistance.
“One church in Arizona called and said they were small and could only give a little to help. They said they would be sending us a $600 check. That’s a big check for a lot of churches here. A non-SBC church called and said they wanted to aid a church in Grand Forks and help them re-establish their ministry,” he said.
Lindsey said another dimension of the relief effort is the compassionate and tireless work of Hmong Baptist volunteers.
“The Hmong Baptist Association has already given a check for relief efforts. Their pastors and people have been working in every area. The Hmong are a people group from the Thailand and Laos areas. They are committed people and they are showing it by their actions here,” Lindsey said.
Betty Lynn Cadle is excited to see a network of support beginning to take shape. Cadle is the state WMU director of missions and ministry.
“We never had a network for disaster relief, but this could lead to setting up our own disaster relief unit,” Cadle said. “The reaction of our volunteers has been tremendous. They have moved from asking, ‘Who will go to help?’ to ‘When can I go?’ We have few retired people in the area, so most of our volunteers are sacrificing personal time from work to be able to help. Many are having difficulty because of time constraints.”
Brotherhood Commission President James D. Williams voiced his concern for the relief work and those receiving Southern Baptist ministry efforts.
“This response shows the continuing commitment of Southern Baptists to disaster relief ministries. I am certainly grateful for trained and competent volunteers who not only meet needs in a caring way, but who minister in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The pervasive, widespread need is being matched with caring people sharing a cold cup of water. This is a grand opportunity to demonstrate that the North American Mission Board can use disaster relief to minister God’s kingdom to people who do not have access to an evangelical witness,” Williams said.

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  • Joe Conway