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Relief workers face challenges assisting hurricane victims

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–As the situation in New Orleans and other areas affected by Hurricane Katrina worsens, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers face challenges as they seek to assist people without the most basic needs.

The number of mobile disaster relief units engaged has swelled to 120, but problems with water and other supplies hampered relief efforts. Feeding units in the field now number 36. Southern Baptist volunteers also are manning two American Red Cross kitchens and two Salvation Army kitchens.

“Already, the response is stretching the infrastructure in affected areas. Priorities are water, food and security. We’re working with local, state and federal officials to remedy these challenges,” said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization at the North American Mission Board.

“There’s a huge demand for bottled water, but we need truckloads of water. This needs to be a matter of prayer among Southern Baptists.”

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are providing meals at a variety of locations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and are expected to be preparing 300,000 meals by the weekend. Mobile kitchens are designed to serve thousands of meals upon arrival to a disaster-stricken area.

Burton emphasized at this stage of the disaster that monetary donations remain extremely critical. “We ask Southern Baptists to give prayerful consideration to assisting this effort,” he said.

Through Sept. 1, more than $558,000 in funds earmarked for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has been received to assist with ongoing relief efforts following Katrina.

Contributions to offset direct costs of the disaster relief response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort, or to the North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net/dr or mailed to the North American Mission Board, Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. A new toll-free number, 1-888-571-5895, has been set up for donations.

Additionally, requests for funds for states impacted by the hurricane -– which is expected to stretch reserves -– are pouring into the Domestic Hunger Fund office at NAMB.

“When people donate money to domestic hunger, 100 percent of the money will go toward food,” said Sandy Wood, of NAMB’s ministry evangelism team. “At this point, we can earmark up to $80,000, but our reserves will dwindle fast.”

Donations to the Domestic Hunger Fund may be made at www.namb.net/hunger or by calling (770) 410-6360. By specifying “Katrina Hunger Relief,” funds donated will go directly to states affected by Katrina.

Southern Baptist churches continue to give sacrificially to assist in disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of Katrina, said Chuck Allen, NAMB chief operating officer.

“We want to thank the hundreds of churches and pastors that are continually contacting us desiring to help — churches like McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Fla., which gave last week’s entire offering of more than $160,000 to assist in disaster relief efforts,” Allen said. “Our great concern is coordinating logistics and being in the center of assistance for months to come. Please be patient as we continue to work with FEMA, the Red Cross and local authorities so that we might assist in the most generous and helpful ways.”

All four Baptist ministry centers in New Orleans have been closed and the missionaries who serve there have been evacuated as has the staff of the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Southern Baptists are asked to pray for the following New Orleans missionaries: Tobey Pitman and David Rhymes, Brantley Center; Larry Miguez, Linda Middlebrooks and Amanda Powell, Rachel Sims Mission; Jennifer Fannin and DeShannan Paddock, Carver Baptist Center; and Kay Bennett and Karina America, Baptist Friendship House. The director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans is Joe McKeever.

Mississippi and Louisiana disaster relief officials report a number of churches in the state were destroyed or are severely damaged by Katrina.

The video, “Touching Lives, Caring People,” has been released by NAMB to assist churches in telling how Southern Baptist Disaster Relief helps in times of crisis. When downloaded and presented in churches and other settings, it can encourage involvement in and support for this ministry during a time of urgent need. The video is available free for download at www.namb.net/drvideo.

Following is the latest information about where Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units have been activated in Louisiana and Mississippi:

Louisana -– Horseshoe Drive Baptist Church, Alexandria; Florida Boulevard Baptist Church, Jefferson Baptist Church and Oak Crest Baptist Church, Baton Rouge; First Baptist Church, Bogalusa; First Baptist Church, Covington; Woodland Park Baptist Church, Hammond; Kenner; Cajun Dome, Lafayette; and Fellowship Baptist Church, Prairieville.

Mississippi -– First Baptist Church, Biloxi; Camp Garaway, Clinton; First Baptist Church, Columbia; Gautier; Main Street Baptist Church and Salvation Army, Hattiesburg; First Baptist Church, Laurel; Salvation Army, Long Beach; First Baptist Church, Lucedale; First Baptist Church, McComb; First Baptist Church, Meridian; First Baptist Church, Pascagoula; First Baptist Church, Picayune; Prentiss; First Baptist Church, Tylertown; Wiggins.

Other units are located in Mobile, Ala., and Carrolton, Ga.

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.

LifeWay Christian Resources, meanwhile, has announced that it is donating $10,000 each to the Baptist state conventions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to assist in their disaster relief efforts in the wake of Katrina.

The Nashville-based nonprofit organization also is working directly with dozens of churches in the three states to restore damaged libraries at deep discounts and to replace at no cost any dated LifeWay curriculum lost in the storm.

“We’re partners in ministry with the state conventions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but even more important, we’re their friends,” said James T. Draper Jr., LifeWay’s president. “When their churches hurt, we hurt, and with these donations we simply wanted to provide a tangible sign that we are praying for them and standing beside them.”

In addition to contributions to state conventions, LifeWay for years has provided disaster assistance to Southern Baptist churches impacted by natural disasters, fires, explosions, theft and vandalism. For affected churches, LifeWay replaces 100 percent of the churches’ dated LifeWay church literature for the current quarter and the following quarter. The company also offers steep discounts for LifeWay undated church literature such as hymnals, as well as Broadman & Holman books and audiovisuals, Holman Christian Standard Bibles, choir robes, Lord’s Supper supplies, church furniture, and more.

“Our goal is to help churches continue to minister spiritually to their congregations while they get back on their feet after a disaster,” said Mike Arrington, vice president of the corporate affairs division, which administers the company’s disaster relief program.

Affected Southern Baptist churches are encouraged to call LifeWay’s disaster assistance line at 1-800-357-7029.

    About the Author

  • Tim Yarbrough