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Thousands continue to be fed daily

GALVESTON, Texas (BP)–On Galveston Island and in inland areas of southeast Texas, disaster relief volunteers from Texas and six out-of-state conventions are continuing the work of recovery — and feeding thousands daily with hot meals nearly three weeks after Hurricane Ike.

“Southern Baptists as a whole have now served more than 2 million meals in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike,” disaster relief director Jim Richardson of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention said Oct. 2.

And since Hurricane Gustav in early September, the count has reached 4.3 million meals prepared by Baptist DR volunteers. DR units remain active along both the Texas and Louisiana coastlines.

On the devastated Galveston Island, Southern Baptist volunteers from Illinois, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Delaware, Arizona and the SBTC are feeding relief workers, emergency personnel and residents who have returned to salvage their belongings.

Additionally, First Baptist Church of Vidor, east of Beaumont near the Louisiana border, is hosting DR volunteers clearing mud and debris — called “mud-out” work — in area towns where water damage in buildings and homes was intense.

Nehemiah’s Vision, a rebuilding ministry begun by First Baptist Vidor after Hurricane Rita in 2005, has expanded its relationship with the SBTC, exploring ways to stage rebuilding work from the Beaumont area as well as from Galveston an hour-and-a-half to the west. The organization has rebuilt or repaired approximately 525 houses in far southeast Texas damaged by Rita.

“At this point, they’re coordinating the church rebuild work,” Richardson said of the ministry.

“All of the disaster relief volunteers have done an outstanding job of helping with immediate needs,” Richardson continued. “The need remains great in cleanup and recovery. Please pray for continued safe travel for our volunteers and that people would receive the Gospel as volunteers offer the hope of Jesus.”

Farther inland, chainsaw teams and recovery volunteers from the SBTC continue to work in rural east Texas. SBTC DR teams have removed storm debris from more than 170 homes. Chaplains are serving with each unit deployed, Richardson noted.

Meanwhile, all SBTC feeding units previously at inland sites have moved to Galveston alongside volunteers from the Salvation Army and Red Cross. Set up on the tarmac at the Lone Star Aviation Museum and Airport in Galveston, they are feeding relief workers and residents who are returning to retrieve belongings or repair property.

A disaster relief training held Sept. 29 at First Baptist Church of Vidor drew more than 150 people, Richardson reported. More DR training sessions will be scheduled soon. Visit sbtexas.com/DR for updates.

Mike Smith, SBTC minister-church relations director, told a Sept. 23 gathering at the Galveston Baptist Association offices that the convention is keenly aware that the loss of a church also means the loss of a job for pastors. And churches whose congregations are still scattered will begin to suffer financially as offerings dry up.

Smith and SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards have visited pastors in storm-affected areas in an effort to encourage them. Smith said he gave each of the 11 pastors he met with recently an envelope of money in an effort to tide them over. Richards said pastors who qualify would receive some salary compensation for a few months.

For the long term, the SBTC will coordinate an adopt-a-church program, matching healthy churches with churches in need of financial, physical and spiritual support.

Information regarding GuideStone insurance premiums waivers also was provided to the pastors. Three months of payments will be waived if a church can meet the following criteria: the church is unable to meet in its facilities; the congregation remains widely dispersed; and the church is unable to pay its pastors and staff. Qualifying pastors should contact Smith at 1-877-953-7282.

Pastors also may receive discounts for books and Sunday School materials from LifeWay Christian Resources.
Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. TEXAN correspondent Bonnie Pritchett contributed to this report.

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