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Relief teams turn eyes toward Texas

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–With recovery work still going non-stop in Louisiana after Hurricane Gustav, Southern Baptist disaster relief workers are watching the Texas coastline where Hurricane Ike is predicted to cut a swath between Port Lavaca and Bay City early Saturday morning.

Port Lavaca is 80 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, while Bay City is 70 miles southwest of Houston.

Moving in a west-northwest direction with maximum winds at 100 mph, Ike is predicted to strengthen considerably before Saturday, when it could make landfall as a deadly Category 3 or 4 hurricane, according to weather forecasts.

FEMA representatives said Ike could produce a storm surge somewhere between 14 and 22 feet -– possibly as high as 27 feet if Ike takes a more northerly path. Houston could experience winds between 80-110 mph with gusts up to 120 mph. Officials said some 3.5 million Texans could be without power as a result of the storm.

FEMA has compared Ike to a Category 3 hurricane that struck the Texas coast in 1983, killing 23, injuring 3,100 and causing $2 billion in damages.

“We’re already involved in developing plans for the two conventions of Texas, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas,” said Mickey Caison, director of operations at the Southern Baptist disaster operations center at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. “In fact, our folks are already feeding at evacuation centers in Texas,” in San Antonio (Kelly Air Force Base and Brookhill Baptist Church), Laredo and the Bryan/College Station areas.

The American Red Cross has requested that Southern Baptists be prepared to provide up to a total of 500,000 meals per day, while the Salvation Army has requested another 70,000 meals.

Eleven feeding units already have been activated for Texas, including units from the two Texas conventions and from Arkansas, California, Florida, North Carolina and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. Even more feeding units will be put on alert or standby following Ike’s landfall.

Still serving in the wake of Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana are 18 feeding units, 11 shower units, five communications/command centers, six laundry units and 50 recovery teams.

Since Gustav made landfall in Louisiana on Labor Day, Southern Baptist volunteers have prepared nearly 770,000 meals; completed 275 chainsaw jobs; provided 7,903 showers and 1,138 loads of laundry; made 9,122 ministry contacts; and recorded 72 Gospel presentations and 75 professions of faith, according to statistics kept by NAMB’s disaster operations center.

In Mississippi, the state convention’s disaster relief volunteers prepared more than 22,500 meals after Gustav for residents in southwest Mississippi who were without electricity for several days after the storm.

The Mississippi Baptist disaster relief task force’s mass feeding unit prepared 18,300 meals from the parking lot of First Baptist Church in Natchez, while a smaller feeding unit from Briar Hill Church in Florence prepared about 4,200 meals at Diamondhead Church in Diamondhead. Both units started cooking on Sept. 3 and closed operations on Sept. 6. Chainsaw teams encompassing 16 volunteers from Yalobusha Baptist Association in Coffeeville and Calhoun Baptist Association in Calhoun City also were activated in the Natchez area, along with a shower unit from the Lafayette Baptist Association in Oxford.

“It was our first time to go into that part of the state with feeding units, and I would say it was a good response both for us and for the people who live in the area,” said Jim Didlake, men’s ministry director for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and Mississippi Baptists’ disaster relief coordinator. “It was an opportunity for a lot of Mississippi Baptists to see their Margaret Lackey State Missions Offering dollars at work.”

Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi are not the only locations where Southern Baptists are staffing up for disaster relief.

Under the SBC’s Baptist Global Response organization, an SBC disaster assessment team will travel to Cuba the week of Sept. 15 to consult with local Baptist partners about relief efforts needed there after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike came ashore there.
Mickey Noah is a staff writer for the North American Mission Board. With reporting by William H. Perkins Jr., editor of the Mississippi Baptist Record. To donate to Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts, phone 886-407-6262 or visit www.namb.net.

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  • Mickey Noah