NASHVILLE (BP) – As of Sunday afternoon (Oct. 2) Florida Baptist Disaster Relief had nine mobile kitchens set up throughout Southwest Florida to provide meals to residents still reeling from the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Ian, which made landfall Sept. 28 as a Category 4 storm.
More than a half million people still had no electricity as of Monday morning (Oct. 3), The Associated Press reported, and rescue workers are still searching for survivors trapped in flooded areas or stranded on coastal islands whose bridges to the mainland were washed away. The death toll in Florida stands at 88 and could continue to rise.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were expected to visit the region Monday.
One of the locations hosting a Florida Baptist mobile kitchen is McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers. The church did not meet Sunday (Oct. 2), but Lead Pastor Russell Howard recorded an informational and encouraging video for his members.
“It’s an axiom of the Christian faith that you learn in the light the truth you’re going to need in the dark,” he said. “I trust that the things that you have learned in better days are serving you well – what you know about the faithfulness of God, what you know about your standing in Christ, what you know about who He is and who we are in Him. I hope that that is providing you the bedrock stability that you doubtless need to cope with horrific difficulty in these days.”
At First Baptist Church of Naples, Lead Pastor Alan Brumback told his congregation Sunday morning that a long-planned missions conference scheduled for this week would still go on, though it would be “modified.”
“In God’s providence, nothing that happened to us this past week caught Him by surprise,” Brumback said. Guest speakers from around the world will still attend the missions conference, he said, but church members will also spend the week focusing on missions closer to home.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of time serving our community,” he said. “Yesterday (Oct. 1), our church was able to bless 1,500 people who came on our property. … We were able to mobilize hundreds of people outside of our campus to go all over – 100 projects yesterday. … We were able to be the hands and feet of Jesus. …”
After the service, church members ate a meal provided by a Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief mobile kitchen set up on the church’s campus.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis described ongoing flooding in the region at a press conference Sunday, calling it a “500-year flood event.”
“I saw homes almost up to the rooftop, still different buildings, RVs that were almost totally submerged,” he said. “This is a big deal.”
DeSantis also gave a nod to Southern Baptist workers on Twitter Sunday night, tweeting: “Worked with Florida Baptist Relief to distribute food and water to residents of Naples. @CaseyDeSantis and I have been encouraged by the outpouring of prayers and assistance for Floridians in need. Keep up the good work!”
Meanwhile in Kentucky, DR volunteers, some of them having just unpacked from helping after massive flooding in Eastern Kentucky, headed south in the early hours of Sunday morning.
“We’ve been asked to feed 15,000 to 20,000 meals a day to begin with,” Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Director Ron Crow told WKYT in Lexington.
“God calls us to this ministry to go bring help, hope and healing to those who are hurting.”
Some of those hurting belong to Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., where Tom Ascol serves as pastor.
The church met in a darkened, unairconditioned sanctuary Sunday morning, a service Ascol called “hot, sweaty & glorious” in a Sunday tweet.
In a Sept. 29 Facebook post, Ascol focused on the positive.
“… In the wake of such catastrophe it is easy to be disoriented by the traumatic experiences you have just lived through and the catastrophic loss that is evident everywhere,” he said. “But God’s people, those who have tasted and know that He is good, who have experienced His grace in the salvation found in His crucified, risen Son, our Lord—Jesus Christ, we have many reasons to be filled with hope and even to rejoice.
“There have been many testimonies of God’s mercies in the midst of the storm. Neighbors helping neighbors; God’s people opening their homes to those needing shelter; a family in need of emergency medical care being able to access it; parents shepherding frightened children with reassurances of God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love; early planning for relief and rebuilding efforts. The list goes on. …”
Amid the devastation, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina and others are there, ready to help.
“When God burns in your heart a ministry like this, and you see people hurting,” Crow told WKYT, “He stirs in your heart and gives you the strength and energy to do what He’s called us to do.”