ROCHESTER, Minn. (BP)–More than 570 disaster relief volunteers from the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention and eight other states are working long hours to aid victims affected by recent flooding in southeast Minnesota.
And in response to Aug. 21 flooding in Ohio, up to 80 disaster relief teams from across the Southern Baptist Convention are on stand-by and may arrive in the Buckeye State as early as Thursday, Aug. 30.
The Minnesota disaster relief activities are based in Winona, a town of some 27,000 located along the Mississippi River on the Minnesota-Wisconsin state line, about two hours southeast of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Officials estimate that as many as 2,000 homes in and around Winona have been impacted by the flooding.
“Southern Baptists everywhere need to pray for these people in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” said Dave Wedekind, who along with wife, Jeanne, serve as co-directors for disaster relief for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.
Calling the floods the “worst in Minnesota since 1997,” Wedekind said recovery from the flooding will be a long-term process.
“Most of the people don’t have flood insurance because their homes were not located in a flood plain,” he said.
Although Winona -– located due east of Rochester, Minn. –- is situated on the Mississippi River, the river was not a factor in the flooding, Wedekind said.
Instead, initial flooding 10 days ago resulted from 17 inches of torrential rain which fell in only five hours in southeast Minnesota’s hill country, Wedekind said. The rain caused a dike to collapse and a series of mudslides.
Southern Baptist disaster relief units were activated the day after the rains hit and by Monday, Aug. 20, volunteers began showing up for duty.
In cooperation with the American Red Cross, the SBC disaster relief feeding units prepared and served 30,440 meals at Winona’s Cornerstone Community Church from Aug. 20-27, Wedekind said.
Ten mud-out crews from Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee have completed four mud-out jobs with many more to come. A childcare unit was mobilized out of Illinois, as well as chaplain units from South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Other volunteers represent state Baptist conventions in Florida, Alabama and Missouri.
“We’ve also recorded 528 presentations of the Gospel since we started early last week,” Wedekind said.
Meanwhile in Ohio, Duane Floro, ministry evangelism strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, said disaster relief incident command centers have been established in Mansfield and Findlay by NAMB and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, respectively.
Floro said the flooding impacted the Findlay area -– between Toledo and Dayton -– and across the state to Mansfield, between Columbus and Cleveland.
The Ohio state convention is handling childcare and feeding units in Findlay, a town of about 20,000, while the North Carolina volunteers are handling assessment and clean-up operations.
“We’re actually still doing assessment,” Floro said. “We haven’t been able to get into some of the little towns yet.”
Floro said his team –- which is working closely with the Buckeye Central/Erie Association and with Lincoln Heights Baptist Church in Mansfield — is projecting at least two weeks of disaster relief activity.
With more than 70,000 trained disaster relief volunteers, Southern Baptists represent the largest volunteer force trained specifically for disaster relief response. State Baptist conventions and local churches provide disaster relief volunteers and equipment while the North American Mission Board works with state and local officials, as well as private and government entities, to coordinate disaster response services.