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Ice storm crisis draws Baptist relief efforts

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Roads froze, trees fell, and thousands of homes and businesses lost power as record-breaking, freezing temperatures swept through the southeast this week. Lynchburg, Va., dropped to 11 below zero Friday morning, setting an all-time record low. Lynchburg was joined in the record book by places like Louisville, Ky., Evansville, Ind., Ashville, N.C., and many others.

After a Feb. 15-16 ice storm in parts of north Georgia, the Forsyth County Emergency Management Agency reached out to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to recruit a DR team to help clear fallen trees as electrical crews restored power to local residents.

SBDR deployed a chainsaw unit in response to the call and partnered with the disaster relief director of the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC), Stewart Lang, who deployed a team with trained volunteers to assist in responding to the disaster.

“By partnering with Forsyth County Emergency Management and with the GBC, we are able to provide help, healing and hope to this community,” Dan Yackel, readiness director for disaster relief at NAMB, said.

The SBDR and GBC teams have been working closely with Forsyth County road and bridge units as well as local power companies to clear trees and limbs from roads and power lines across the county.

In addition to Forsyth County residents, the SBDR team is also working to help bring some relief to the county workers.

“These guys are tired and working 12-hour shifts in temperatures well below freezing. So we’re happy to do our part to help them out in any way we can,” Yackel said.

After being able to clear a large amount of debris from roads and power lines since Tuesday, the SBDR unit and their partners started on Thursday to shift some of their focus to clearing larger trees from local residents’ driveways and properties.

Baptist relief workers see this type of extreme weather as another reminder of the need for disaster preparation.

Churches can connect with a local SBDR director to learn more about how they can be better prepared when a storm, or any kind of disaster, hits close to home. They also can go to http://www.baptistrelief.org or contact the Baptist convention in their state. Or, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262).

SBDR leaders hope to enable churches to prepare, connect and respond within their local context. Through the disaster relief network, both national and international, Southern Baptists are able to respond with full support to crises of all sizes.

Fritz Wilson, executive director for SBDR at NAMB, noted “the reason for churches and Christians to be prepared is that when we are prepared, we can better cope with the situation and minister to our neighbors.”

NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state Disaster Relief ministries.

Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers — including chaplains — and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

    About the Author

  • Kristen Camp