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Southern Baptist Disaster Relief readies for Hurricane Rita

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is gearing up to prepare 400,000 meals daily following Hurricane Rita.

The American Red Cross is anticipating the need for meals to exceed that of Hurricane Katrina when Southern Baptists were asked to prepare 300,000 meals a day.

“Forty-eight mobile kitchens in the Southern Baptist fleet are being activated and deployed in Texas,” said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization at the North American Mission Board. Volunteers have prepared 4.8 million meals in the weeks following Katrina, which is considered one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

“Ten mobile kitchens in Mississippi and 17 mobile kitchens in Louisiana remain assigned in those states. Other units have evacuated to either Camp Garaywa or Central Hills Baptist Retreat in Mississippi,” Burton said.

The Gulf Coast — already stinging from Hurricane Katrina — is expected to once again bear the brunt of Rita, which has weakened from a Category 5 to Category 3 hurricane. Rita is expected to make landfall early Saturday between Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas. The storm is expected to cause further flooding in New Orleans and other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

NAMB President Robert E. “Bob” Reccord asked Southern Baptists to pray for Rita to weaken, for lives to be spared and for the protection of disaster relief volunteers.

“I have just returned from a visit to the Gulf shores area impacted so horrendously by Hurricane Katrina. Some of our volunteers have been on the field for 20 days, but they are holding up remarkably well and I was moved by their great spirits and overwhelming generosity,” Reccord said.

“I spoke with one couple who had been serving for 17 days. I asked when they were going to take a break, and they said they were heading home this weekend to clear downed trees on their own property and then would return to serve the following week. Those are the kind of people we have out there.”

Southern Baptist response to Katrina has been historic. Previously, the most meals prepared by volunteers totaled 2.5 million during Hurricane Andrew. Katrina smashed that record three weeks into the disaster response.

Already, 6,000 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from 36 state conventions have served in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia following Katrina. Mobile disaster relief units activated number 260 with 198 units still on site. In all, 56 mobile feeding units, 32 shower units, 36 recovery units and 22 chain saw units have been deployed to affected areas.

Southern Baptist volunteers prepare most of the meals distributed by the American Red Cross as well as provide cleanup and recovery, communications, childcare and other vital disaster services. Southern Baptists are the third-largest disaster relief operation in the country behind the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, with more than 30,000 trained volunteers on call for local, state and national emergencies.

A six-minute video highlighting Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts for viewing by local churches this Sunday can be downloaded at www.lifeway.com/katrina. The video includes a challenge from SBC President Bobby Welch to share the Gospel while meeting the physical needs of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Also, a webcast briefing about Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts is available at www.namb.net. Disaster relief information is posted regularly at www.namb.net/dr.

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 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund. Donations to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief may be made online, www.namb.net, or by calling 1-888-571-5895. Alternately, contributions can be mailed to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, North American Mission Board, Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.

    About the Author

  • Tim Yarbrough