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Flood relief faces N.Y., N.J. Baptists

NEW YORK (BP) — The Baptist Convention of New York sprang into ministry to feed storm victims and rescue workers in the wake of Hurricane Irene, which spared the state widespread devastation as it weakened to a tropical storm, but caused significant flooding in New Jersey.

“We are grateful that God answered our prayers as we asked for His favor; the devastation is not as bad as anticipated,” said Terry Robertson, BCNY executive director. “That being said, there still are significant needs for our BCNY churches as well as the communities where we serve. They still need a Gospel presence. We are ready to assist these areas.”

A BCNY feeding unit was deployed to Westchester County on Monday morning where work is underway to recover from flooding by the Hudson River, BCNY disaster relief director Mike Flannery said. A team of 20 volunteers plans to prepare as many as 8,000 meals a day for the next three weeks, aided by 13 volunteers from Mississippi’s Pearl River Baptist Association en route from that state.

New York’s Hudson Baptist Association is transporting a shower trailer to the feeding site, said Mike Collins, pastor of Brunswick Baptist Church in the association.

David Persson, director of missions for the New Jersey Network of Churches association, was clearing his Boonton, N.J., home of downed trees and cleaning his basement of flooding from the Rockaway River on Monday morning. Many of those trained in disaster relief in the association are in the same boat, with water still rising from the saturated grounds, Persson reported.

“All of New Jersey, every corner of New Jersey has flooding,” he said. “I’m hoping they’ll be sending disaster relief teams … from outside the area. All of New Jersey, north to south, is quite a wet mess and will be for a while.”

Four churches in the New Jersey association have volunteered to house relief workers, Persson said.

Flannery said disaster response is important to the church’s mission.

“We’re always tasking our people with the mission of sharing the Gospel with the people they come in contact with,” he said. “We can show the community who we are as Christians that call themselves Southern Baptists, that we do care about them, that we meet the total needs of people.”

Flannery will further assess recovery needs after overseeing the setup of the feeding unit in Westchester, where the American Red Cross is operating shelters. He counts 255 trained disaster relief workers among the nine Baptist associations that cooperate with the BCNY.
Diana Chandler is a freelance writer based in New Orleans.