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Katrina ‘ground zero’ spans entire nation, SBC launches housing & church initiatives

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–“What we are now calling ‘ground zero’ covers the continental United States, as the dispersion of Hurricane Katrina survivors is bringing this disaster to each of our communities,” said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization at the North American Mission Board.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Southern Baptists to rise to the occasion and model our passion for missions to the world.”

Over the Labor Day weekend, NAMB President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord announced two initiatives designed to help damaged SBC churches recover and to offer assistance to people displaced by the storm.

“Adopt a Church is a plan to ask healthy and blessed SBC congregations across North America to adopt SBC congregations that have been badly damaged or destroyed,” Reccord said. “This will be a commitment of anywhere between one to two years. All manner of help will be needed: mission trips, rebuilding trips, care packages, appropriate financial support, and encouragement for the staff who have been through numerous challenges.”

Houses of Hope will give Southern Baptist members and churches the opportunity to minister to displaced Katrina victims directly.

“[W]e are asking churches with facilities that can be converted into temporary housing for evacuees to become Houses of Hope,” he said. “Our encouragement would be to begin with an initial commitment to house evacuees for 30 days, with a subsequent review for an extension if needed and appropriate,” Reccord explained.

Details of both programs are being finalized with other SBC partners as well as other disaster relief agencies, and will be announced later this week at www.namb.net.

Reccord participated in a meeting with President Bush the morning of Sept. 6 in which disaster relief efforts and priorities were discussed.

“The president acknowledged the importance of faith-based groups in the immediate response to this crisis but also in the important role we can play in the long-term emotional and spiritual recovery that must take place,” Reccord said.

Other attendees included leaders from the Red Cross and Salvation Army, groups that partner with Southern Baptists in providing meals and other critical services in the wake of disasters.

“[The president] told us one of the biggest things needed now is hope, and he called on us to be the hope-givers,” Reccord said. “I asked him to consider a national day of prayer, similar to the one we had after Sept. 11. He said it’s something he’s already working on.”

Reccord said the meeting ended in prayer as all of the participants and the president held hands and asked for God’s guidance in carrying out their disaster relief efforts.

More than 3,000 Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers are now engaged in the Katrina response effort. Two hundred thirty-five mobile disaster units have been activated from as far away as California and Virginia and 34 states in between. Southern Baptist volunteers have prepared more than half a million meals.

Now is the time Southern Baptists can make a difference for Christ in literally thousands of peoples’ lives, Burton said.

“We know churches and associations across the convention are making gallant efforts to shelter hurricane survivors. NAMB recognizes this is new territory for each of us. We are working with the American Red Cross and others to create guidelines that help churches and families make good decisions about their participation,” he said.

“Obviously the Houses of Hope initiative will be one of the best opportunities in our lifetime for the church to be Jesus’ hands and feet. Certainly we have a biblical mandate and pattern from the New Testament to help people in need. Now is the time,” Burton said.

Volunteers, Burton said, are serving heroically in very challenging circumstances.

“Our units are creatively facing logistical challenges of re-supply. I’m very proud of the efforts taking place in the field. It is hard for most of us to understand the challenges faced by disaster responders. That’s why we need to be in constant prayer for them as well as the survivors of this hurricane,” he said.

“Between the heat, the destruction and logistical challenges, they are laboring to be light during a very dark time in the region.”

Following is the latest information about where Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units or operations have been activated in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Tennessee:

Louisiana — Horseshoe Drive Baptist Church, Alexandria; Florida Boulevard Baptist Church, Jefferson Baptist Church and Oakcrest Baptist Church, Salvation Army, Baton Rouge; First Baptist Church, Bogalusa; First Baptist Church, Covington; Gonzales; Eule Landry Middle School, Hahnville; Woodland Park Baptist Church, Hammond; Houma; Veterans Parkway, Kenner; Lake Charles; Grace Memorial Baptist Church, Slidell; Westwego.

Mississippi — First Baptist Church, Bay Vista Baptist Church, Biloxi; Camp Garaywa, Clinton; First Baptist Church, Columbia; Main Street Baptist Church and Salvation Army, Hattiesburg; First Baptist Church, Laurel; Salvation Army, Long Beach; First Baptist Church, Lucedale; Magee; First Baptist Church, McComb; First Baptist Church, Meridian; Monticello Baptist Church, Monticello; First Baptist Church, Natchez; First Baptist Church, Pascagoula; First Baptist Church, Picayune; Prentiss; First Baptist Church, Tylertown; Wiggins.

Outside Louisiana and Mississippi are the following operations: Moffitt Road Baptist Church, Mobile, Ala.; George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston; San Antonio and Orange, Texas; and Memphis, Tenn.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief — the third largest volunteer relief organization in the United States — prepares the majority of meals distributed through the American Red Cross in a disaster. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has more than 600 mobile disaster response units and 30,000 trained volunteers. State Baptist conventions recruit and train volunteers from Southern Baptist churches. NAMB coordinates multi-state and international responses by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

Contributions to offset direct costs of the disaster relief response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort, and to the North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net or mailed to the North American Mission Board, Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Donations also may be made by calling 1-888-571-5895.

    About the Author

  • Tim Yarbrough