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DISASTER RELIEF DIGEST: Baptists respond to floods, fires in the West

Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief workers in Montana.

Southern Baptists respond to historic Montana flooding

By Darren Hales/Montana Southern Baptist Convention

RED LODGE, Mont. (BP) – When the waters of Rock Creek began to surge across its banks into homes and businesses, the members of the Church of the Rockies began to respond.  At first, it was neighbors helping neighbors, checking on one another, and offering aid. When the Red Cross arrived, the church family quickly began to volunteer to be the hands and feet of the relief organization. They began preparing and delivering meals, distributing supplies and helping coordinate the response. The church also has a benevolence fund, and it too was used to begin meeting immediate needs.

Pastor Justin Carter said, “I’m so proud of the way our church has responded. Every day, I’m hearing new stories of how church members have served the people of Red Lodge. It’s amazing. The church immediately reached out to community leaders to offer our facility to be an emergency shelter. We made a few meals, but quickly realized that coordinating with the Red Cross was our niche. Working together, we have had the greatest impact.”

Soon, coordination between the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention and Missouri Baptist partners began to take place. A Missouri shower unit that had been assigned to for summer ministry in Bozeman was redeployed. A team from Utah/Idaho arrived to coordinate mud-out crews. As basements are cleaned out, teams spray them with “Shockwave” to kill bacteria and mitigate against mold. As these homes dry out, they will be ready to rebuild. The team has had opportunities to pray with flood victims, exchange stories and be a source of hope and encouragement.

Just downstream, in the small community of Fromberg, many homes were also devastated by the historic flooding. Pastor John Finley and the Refuge Church jumped into action. Finley said he has met a half-dozen families who need a mud-out crew. God is opening doors for spiritual conversations, and local officials have asked him to provide counseling in the evenings.

Carter and Finley are working together to coordinate Montana Southern Baptist Convention teams who are ready to offer relief. South Hills Baptist Fellowship recently sent a cleanup crew to Fromberg. Tom Blankenship, a member of that team, said, “The family we helped were so grateful and very open to talk. They had so much to share and were open to listening about the hope of the Gospel.”

Trey Haidle, youth pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Billings, brought a team of 12 students to Fromberg. They tore the sheetrock out of two basements and power-washed mud out of a garage. They emptied furniture from a house and loaded eight trailers full of trash. Haidle said it was a bonding time for these students. Serving others gives the students a glimpse of what it means to unite as a church.

Expedition Church in Livingston, Mont., and Gardiner (Mont.) Baptist Church have also partnered to deliver thousands of pounds of food and water.

Darryl Brunson of Expedition Church had multiple teams planned this summer for outreach and community service. He has redirected the teams to fill sandbags, clean out homes and offer hope and encouragement.

By working with state and local officials, Gardiner Baptist Pastor Britton Gray has a pulse of the needs of Gardiner and the long-term impact of the flooding. With the town cut off from Yellowstone National Park, most of the businesses may not survive. Together, they can mobilize teams to provide assistance to these communities.

New Mexico churches minister in wake of devastating wildfires

By Karen Pilgreen/Baptist New Mexican

RUIDOSO (BNM) – Recent wildfires in New Mexico prompted churches to help people who evacuated from the fires, lost property to the fires or both.

The Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak fire impacted the community of Angel Fire and surrounding areas. Brian Nystrom, Angel Fire Baptist Church’s pastor, said, “We have prepared our church for years to function as an evacuation site … and [we] are the official evacuation site for a reintegration center that is nearby.”

During the fire, Angel Fire Baptist Church was an unofficial evacuation site for four single, older individuals from the Guadalupita/Sierra Bonita area between Mora and Angel Fire. According to Nystrom, the church provided dividers in its fellowship hall to create “bedroom” spaces, including cots, blankets, sheets and pillows. The kitchen and refrigerator/freezer space were available, as well as bathrooms and a shower. “Two of them stayed for just a few days; two of them stayed for a few weeks,” Nystrom said.

“We have been able to use [our resale shop] to provide needed items for evacuees and those who lost homes, as well as help provide for needs of firefighters located in our area,” Nystrom said. Church members also provided and delivered meals, and members who serve with volunteer fire departments functioned as support personnel to the wildfire firefighters. “The church helped to fund food distribution through the local school and the local ministerial alliance,” Nystrom reported.

Mickey Richardson is an Angel Fire Baptist Church member and fire chief for the Sierra Bonita Rincon Volunteer Fire Department. His wife, Betty, shared that in addition to support from the community who provided food at the fire station, “we had prayer services asking for safety, strength, endurance and wisdom. Firefighters recognize wisdom comes from God and [that] He provides what we need just when we need it.” A firefighter working on the fire line with Chief Richardson as the fire was being diverted from Angel Fire said, “I don’t know what God you pray to, but keep going. He’s listening.”

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