News Articles

DR DIGEST: Baptists serve in Guam, Tennessee, Kentucky, Israel

Wayne Abbott, an Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, prays for Brandie Lee on her deck in Madison, Tenn.

‘Guam Strong’ recover leans on cooperation

By Richard Nations/The Illinois Baptist

For the people of Guam, just a few weeks after Typhoon Mawar hit the island in May, it appeared that people had forgotten about the damage and their ongoing need. But for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the work was just beginning. And for Jennifer Smith, an Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) volunteer from Jacksonville, the two weeks she served in Guam during September were hard, hopeful, and a regular part of her missions commitment.

Jennifer Smith from Illinois (far left) served with Disaster Relief teams from multiple state conventions. “There were no restrictions (from FEMA) on sharing the gospel with the people on the projects,” Smith said. “The DR teams were a huge testimony to the homeowners and to the FEMA representatives.”

The groups worked cooperatively with the Hawaii-Pacific Baptist Convention (HBPC) and the SBC’s Send Relief, a joint project of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board. Smith joined state DR teams from Arizona and Oklahoma as a chaplain and she sometimes was doing construction work as well.

In all, nine Baptist state conventions have sent teams to work on a project that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is calling “Guam Strong.” Teams arrived every two weeks during late August and throughout September, at the same time HPBC was developing relief plans for Maui.

Homes to receive repair orders had to be occupied by the homeowner and sometimes that was complicated. People had to find documents to prove ownership, so non-profit groups including Southern Baptist DR were trying to get to those who had been waiting for help.

The work was hard and the tropical weather was hot – 85-90 degrees and humidity above 85 percent most days. During breaks, teams rotated out of the heat into shaded areas. While she was there, Smith said she saw three homes where repairs were completed. They finished up with some other jobs that had been left by previous teams. More important, the teams reported two salvations among the spiritual ministry they provided.

Alabama Disaster Relief responds to Tennessee storm damage

By Shawn Hendricks/The Alabama Baptist

Following a tornado that ripped through her Madison, Tenn., neighborhood and dropped a huge tree in her driveway — just missing her house — Brandie Lee didn’t know where to start with the cleanup.

During the storm, she received a text from a neighbor saying, “Um, our shed is in your tree.”

“This is like crazy,” Lee said. “That was when it was really hitting me, ‘This is a real tornado.’’’

The young homeowner admitted she was feeling overwhelmed after the storm. It was right about then, she recalled, she heard a knock at the door. It was an Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, who traveled with a team to help clean up the damage.

Lee was just one of thousands of Tennessee residents who were on the receiving end of a storm that ripped through the Nashville area Dec. 9 destroying homes, damaging roofs, snapping powerlines and trees like toothpicks – and tragically taking six lives.

Soon after the storm, Disaster Relief teams in Tennessee and Alabama were called on to assess the damage and help homeowners remove trees and other debris from their property.

Figuring out how to pay for costly repairs and how to pay an often pricey deductible is real issue for many homeowners — especially during the holiday season, said volunteer Dave “Barney” Self, a “Blue Hat,” who helped lead the team at Lee’s house.

“Most people can’t pay $10,000 to move a tree,” said Self, who has worked on Disaster Relief teams for more than 10 years, “but we can do it for them and help them out for free. … We’re able to come help them and minister to them. That’s what we want to do.”

Texas Baptist Men volunteers return from Israel

By Ferrell Foster/The Baptist Standard

After almost two months of providing meals in the midst of the Israel-Hamas war, Texas Baptist Men feeding teams are returning home as the ministry’s Israeli partners can now meet the needs of people caught in the conflict.

Texas Baptist Men volunteer teams served meals in Israel. TBM volunteers prepared and served 1,300 meals Nov. 29 near the Egyptian border., setting up the mobile kitchen in a tent. TBM Photo

The third TBM volunteer team returned from Israel Dec. 12. TBM will continue supporting its Israeli partners as they serve.

“The need for mass feeding in Israel has declined to the point where our Israeli partners can meet the need on their own with TBM-designed equipment,” said Mickey Lenamon, TBM executive director/CEO.

TBM has worked several years building relationships with Israel’s Emergency Volunteer Project. It involved training TBM volunteers in preparing for specific dietary needs in Israel and using TBM designs to develop mass feeding mobile kitchens and processes.

TBM volunteers headed to Israel shortly after the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. About 40 volunteers from Texas, supplemented by Kansans and North Carolinians, worked alongside Israeli workers to meet the food needs caused by displacement during the first two months of the war.

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