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Dorian relief: Baptists serving Bahamas & N.C.

HATTERAS, N.C. (BP) — As Hurricane Dorian moved along the East Coast, North Carolina officials hoped they had dodged a direct hit. Then, the storm made landfall in the Outer Banks at 8:35 Friday morning (Sept. 6).

The Outer Banks — a string of islands off the state’s main coast — experienced significant damage to homes and businesses days after Dorian struck the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) has begun feeding and setting up recovery sites in the Carolinas while Baptist Global Response (BGR) is working with Bahamian Baptists to distribute supplies such as food, water, blankets and hygiene kits as their leaders plan for a long-term recovery effort.

Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee, noted that “Southern Baptists have a long history of helping those in time of need. The quick response by Baptist Global Response, Send Relief [of the North American Mission Board] and our state Baptist disaster relief organizations as well as local churches to the devastation left by Hurricane Dorian is to be commended. We must continue to work together to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of those affected by Hurricane Dorian.”

BGR reported stories from survivors that underscored the ongoing severity in the Bahamas. The confirmed death toll stands at 50 and tens of thousands of residents have been displaced.

One man, BGR said in a statement, went out to help rescue others only to return and find that his wife had been killed as a result of the storm. Another woman rode out the hurricane by clinging to a rock, going days without food before making it to safety.

The search and recovery process has been ongoing in the Bahamas, even a week after the storm made landfall, and the death toll is expected to rise sharply. Volunteer relief teams will only be able to initiate their efforts when first responders declare towns and regions safe.

Some areas, such as Marsh Harbor on Abaco Island, were “completely destroyed,” BGR CEO Jeff Palmer said. “The city and area were so devastated that people have evacuated because there is nothing there for them.”

BGR’s primary focus so far has been working with their ministry partners to meet the needs of evacuees, many of whom fled to Freeport and Nassau. Eventually, volunteers will be able to serve in the recovery effort in the Bahamas, but the main need now, Palmer said, is prayer and financial support to provide food and other items locally sourced in the Bahamas so that churches there will be able to continue ministering to their communities.

In North Carolina, SBDR set up a feeding unit over the weekend at the Hatteras Ferry Terminal and prepared 1,980 meals that the American Red Cross then delivered to storm survivors on Hatteras Island and ferried to Ocracoke Island, which is only accessible by boat or ferry. On Tuesday (Sept. 10), SBDR will prepare food for delivery by The Salvation Army as well.

Jack Frazier, SBDR leader for North Carolina Baptists on Mission, praised volunteers who have been flexible and servant-minded throughout the response. When the government’s emergency management agency called asking for a team to distribute items donated to help storm survivors, volunteers stepped forward to meet the need.

“They are spending their vacation and/or free time to do this at the drop of a hat,” Frazier said, calling North Carolina’s volunteers some of the best. “We can’t thank them enough for stepping up to be a servant and hands and feet of Christ.”

Recovery sites have been set up at Atlantic Missionary Baptist Church in Atlantic, N.C., and at Cape Hatteras Baptist Church on the island in Frisco, N.C. From these sites, SBDR teams will go into neighborhoods to begin the cleanup and restoration process for homes damaged during the hurricane.

Visit namb.net/hurricane-dorian to donate and learn how to volunteer with the Southern Baptist stateside recovery effort. Visit gobgr.org to donate and learn more about BGR’s efforts in the Bahamas.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services. The North American Mission Board provides national coordination and assistance in larger, multi-state responses.