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SBTC teams ready for ministry in hurricane-ravaged Mexico

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)–With Texas spared from serious damage when Hurricane Emily struck the northeast Mexican coast July 20, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention disaster relief workers are preparing to deliver non-perishable food staples to storm-ravaged areas 70-80 miles south of the Rio Grande, said Bill Davenport, SBTC director of disaster relief.

A Southern Baptist assessment team that included representatives from the SBTC ventured into Mexico July 23 to see damaged areas and to talk with Southern Baptist missionaries there. Pending an official request by the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, the SBTC will send disaster relief workers across the border with trucks carrying food staples such as rice, beans, bottled water and masa, a corn meal used to make tortillas, Davenport said.

“In two to three weeks they should be back on their feet,” Davenport said of the damaged Mexican villages. “They don’t need us to bring meals to them. They need these basic staples until they can get their infrastructure back in place.”

Davenport said the SBTC teams likely would be dispatched for about five days.

Emily produced nothing more than a mid-grade tropical storm along the Texas side of the Rio Grande Valley, but 70-80 miles south into Mexico, the hurricane was a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds that struck harshly at fishing villages on the northeast Mexican coast and downed power lines and water-pumping windmills farther inland.

Emily was at Category 4 storm with winds of 135 mph when it struck the Mayan Riviera of Mexico two days earlier, stranding tourists and tearing the roofs from several hotels in Cancun.

Twenty people from SBTC churches departed July 19 for south Texas as part of a Salvation Army feeding contingent preparing for Hurricane Emily. The Salvation Army reported distributing 6,836 meals to those waiting for the storm in municipal shelters in the Texas border towns of McAllen, Port Isabel and Harlingen. The SBTC team returned a day later after the storm produced no serious damage in the state.

“I don’t think you could have had a better situation with two groups working together than the Salvation Army and Southern Baptists,” the Salvation Army’s Texas disaster coordinator, Al Ritson, said.

SBTC flood recovery and chainsaw crews were on standby but were not needed, Davenport said. “The good news is that Texas was spared any major damage. The benefit to our SBTC disaster relief teams is it was a great exercise in preparedness,” he added.
Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

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