ATLANTA (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary officials met in Atlanta Sept. 1 to begin the long process of healing from Hurricane Katrina. Providing for the immediate needs of seminary families was their top priority.
“The seminary family has been deeply affected,” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said. “Our greatest concern is taking care of the people side of this tragedy.
“We’re going to work on the campus and the buildings,” he said, “[but] most of all we want to take care of these precious families.”
Kelley started the meeting by reading from Psalm 46. The group prayed and wept. They prayed for the students, faculty and staff members. They prayed for the city and rescue efforts. The group also prayed for the many poor citizens who have lost everything.
Thirty members of the faculty, staff and administration, homeless themselves, began asking the same questions that students and employees are asking. The group split into two task forces — one to address relief efforts; the other, academic issues.
Offers of help are pouring in from churches, state conventions and individuals. The offers include housing (some near NOBTS extension sites), clothing and other items. The relief task force focused on developing a system of matching the needs of seminary families with the relief that is currently available and continuing to find additional aid.
The task force developed online information update forms for students, faculty and staff members. The forms will be used not only to assess needs and to gather basic information about members of the seminary family. Anyone who lived on the main NOBTS campus at the time of the hurricane is asked to complete this update. Forms will be available online at www.nobts.edu and www.sbc.net.
A separate form, which also will be available at www.nobts.edu and www.sbc.net, will develop a list of volunteers and resources. Members of the seminary staff will try to match these offers and resources with the needs of students. Those who wish to help with cleanup and repair of the campus should also complete this form.
“We already have floods of relief coming in from different people who want to help,” dean of students Craig Price said. “We are going to match the needs with the resources that are being offered.”
Price said the relief task force also is working diligently to get information out to students.
Some time in the coming weeks and months the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow people to return to their homes for brief salvage efforts. This will be a time of severe grief for many NOBTS families. To help with this need, the task force plans to have counselors on the campus as members of the seminary family search their houses and apartments.
The task force also is compiling information on contacting FEMA and the Red Cross. They stressed that all on-campus students, faculty and staff, as well as those in other affected areas, should register with FEMA at www.fema.gov.
So far, the response from Southern Baptists has been overwhelming, Kelley said. But much more will be needed to care for those displaced by the tragedy.
“In the midst of all of this, God has given us some wonderful blessings,” Kelley said. “We believe that God is going to provide what we need.”
Provost Steve Lemke urged Baptists, “Ask your churches to pray for the faculty, staff and students who have lost most of their earthly possessions.”
Seminary officials noted that telephone lines at the North Georgia Campus are being overwhelmed by hits to the website. Steps are being taken to add a new, more capable phone line on the campus in the next few weeks. NOBTS encourages people to view the information on www.sbc.net if they are unable to access www.nobts.edu.
New Orleans Seminary offices in North Georgia may be reached at 1-800-662-8701. Donations can be made online at www.nobts.edu or by mail at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 1608, Decatur, GA 30031 or New Orleans Seminary Hurricane Relief Fund, Southern Baptist Foundation, 901 Commerce St., Suite 600, Nashville, TN 37203.