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SBTC DR, Red Cross serve thousands impacted by floods

PFLUGERVILLE (BP) — Mike Northen never imagined disaster relief would begin in his church’s parking lot, but that is what happened as First Baptist Pflugerville set up a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention disaster relief feeding unit to support Red Cross efforts in central Texas following region-wide flooding in May.

“We set up the kitchen at our church because it was a central location,” said Northen, First Pflugerville’s associate pastor of education and church administration.

The feeding unit, manned initially by volunteers from First Pflugerville, began preparing meals June 1 for Red Cross workers to transport to area communities including Brenham, Bryan-College Station, Somerville, Cedar Creek, Bastrop and Giddings, Northen said.

The meals prepared by Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) volunteers were kept hot in Cambro containers supplied by the Red Cross, whose workers drove emergency response vehicles to distribute the food to those impacted by the flooding, Northen said.

Northen served as white hat, or incident leader, May 31–June 4, the week in which First Pflugerville volunteers manned the feeding unit. Ralph Britt of Flint Baptist Church rotated in with a fresh crew over the next weekend as SBTC teams continued producing 500-plus meals per day.

More than 6,000 meals were prepared the first week of the deployment, Northen added.

“Our feeding volunteers continue to serve and be a blessing to the victims of the recent flooding. Mud-out operations will start after the water recedes,” said Scottie Stice, SBTC director of disaster relief.
SBTC disaster relief volunteers also deployed to Rosenberg, north of Houston, where they provided laundry and shower units to assist more than 200 first responders engaged in flood relief in southeast Texas.

“We are honored to serve first responders in Rosenberg as they serve the people of the state of Texas,” Stice said. The Rosenberg deployment wrapped up June 6 as white hat Mike Jansen oversaw the removal of SBTC equipment to Angleton at the request of Texas Emergency Management.
Spring floods ravaging Texas only affirmed the need for disaster relief volunteers.

For pastors considering establishing a disaster relief ministry, Northen advised, “Don’t try to figure out whether you need [DR training]. Get trained to help. Get ready.”

Volunteering on a disaster relief deployment may involve a few hours, a day, a week or longer.

“Some deployed from our church are in job or life situations where they thought they’d never get to serve. I pushed them to get the training,” Northen said, adding that he told church members, “Let God worry about when and where you deploy.”

Fifteen disaster relief volunteers from First Pflugerville manned the feeding unit in the church parking lot, some working for just a day.

Participating in disaster relief, especially in one’s own backyard, may inconvenience a church, but the inconvenience is worth it, Northen said. In the case of First Pflugerville, Sunday services were impacted as the feeding unit took up 100 parking spaces. The next week’s feeding crew stayed in church facilities.

“We need more people, more pastors, to wake up and see this ministry is a very evangelistic outreach. I have people who are involved in DR who don’t feel like they can do anything else in the church. They don’t feel like they can teach. This gives them a way to serve. If you are not getting your church involved, are you keeping somebody, especially in their retirement years, from a way of serving?”

Disaster relief is an inclusive form of ministry meeting the needs of people in times of crisis, providing basic services and sharing the love of Jesus.

“It’s a chance to become salt and light,” Northen said.