NEWARK, Del. (BP) – More than 200 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders and volunteers from across North America arrived at Ogletown Baptist Church for the SBDR Roundtable Jan. 23-25.
The mostly gold-bedecked army of SBDR volunteers is a unique group. For Dan Hyun, BCM/D partnership team leader, who led a breakout session titled “Healthy Rhythms for Helpers,” it was the first time being at a large SBDR event.
“You have a particular culture and feel,” he told the group. “You ‘get’ each other.” Hyun called attendees heroes — giving of themselves to help others in times of distress.
Disaster Relief volunteers refer to that culture as the “DR Family,” and that family bond was very much in evidence as volunteers from 38 of 42 Baptist state and regional conventions, including Canada and Puerto Rico, reunited with partners they have worked with side by side in difficult, often traumatic situations.
Many recalled challenges and innovations surrounding recent disasters, including Hurricane Idalia, flooding in Vermont, the Maui fires and other major events. There was immediate camaraderie as strangers became engaged in conversation while perusing the SBDR response trailers in the parking lot or between classes — sharing ideas and discovering ways to improve their work.
The conference offered a wide range of advanced training opportunities for volunteers in chaplaincy, using drones in damage assessment, managing a mass care feeding site, incident management administrative best practices, equipment safety and maintenance and other technical and ministry topics.
Crisis Response Director for Send Relief Coy Webb said in addition to a wonderful turnout and some great training sessions, one of the highlights this year was an anticipated strengthened partnership with the Salvation Army.
“It will be beneficial to both organizations, and we’re very excited,” Webb said, adding that he is particularly pleased that the Salvation Army is faith-based.
“I think we’re going to see, in the near future, a great opportunity for us to have some partnership with them that will release some resources to strengthen our feeding ability in times of disaster,” Webb said.
Webb spoke highly of the newly updated and revamped Disaster Relief Operations Manual.
The annual training conference and business session was planned this year by the four Northeast state conventions with Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) SBDR Director Ellen Udovich and the Maryland/Delaware team hosting. The SBDR team with the Baptist Resource Network (Pennsylvania/South Jersey) assisted in preparing hundreds of meals and serving at the awards banquet.
One of the most anticipated events of the annual roundtable is the awards dinner. Each year, volunteers are nominated for national awards by their state convention SBDR directors, with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Steering Committee making the final selection.
This year’s keynote speaker for the dinner was longtime national SBDR Leader Eddie Blackmon, who shared about the need to trust in the Lord. “Partners are important, but we need to partner with the Lord,” he said, sharing that he has witnessed many times how God has provided what was needed on the field.
Henry Blackaby’s book, “Experiencing God,” had a huge impact on Blackmon’s life, and that carried over to serving disaster relief. One of Blackaby’s major themes in the book was recognizing where God is working and joining Him in what He is doing. There’s no better ministry than SBDR for putting that into practice, said Blackmon. “God is all around you.”
The following awards were presented:
Distinguished Service Awards for exceptional service
Michael Fujimoto, Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention
Daniel Arnold, Northwest Baptist Convention
Brian Gueringer, Louisiana Baptist Convention
Tom Malott, Missouri Baptist Convention
Debbie Klepinger, State Convention of Baptists in Ohio
Artie Horn, Missouri Baptist Convention
Joel W. Phillips Outstanding Achievement Award
Tom Waites, Louisiana Baptist Convention
Mike Bastin, Kentucky Baptist Convention
George Blevins, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware
Robert E. Dixon Award for a lifetime of service
Linda Gregory, Florida Baptist Convention
Jerry & Andy Cable, Kentucky Baptist Convention
Laddie Adams Retiring State Director Award:
Mike Bivins – California Southern Baptist Convention
SBDR Steering Committee Service:
Mark Wakefield, Alabama Baptist Convention
Kenton Hunt, Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey
The Roundtable itself was held on the final day of the conference. State SBDR directors, along with Coy Webb and other national leaders, met to set the direction of the organization, hear reports, delegate to working committees and set policy.
Highlights of the session included greetings from national partners, including the Red Cross, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), and Lowe’s. The state directors also approved recommendations clarifying the basic qualifications of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplains and discussed the new SBDR Operations Manual, which provides a framework for the various entities of the SBDR network to maximize organizational leadership in coordinating disaster responses at both the command and functional levels.
The meeting concluded with a challenge for the network to prioritize mutual aid and support as SBDR is being called upon to respond to more frequent and severe disaster and crisis events locally and nationally.
Next year’s Winter Roundtable will be in San Antonio, Texas. The convention directors also meet each June following the SBC annual meeting.