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Volunteers needed in New England after historic floods

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (BP)–Two weeks after the worst flooding in 200 years inundated parts of four New England states, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief assessment teams are “running flat out,” said Bruce James, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE).

Some 100 DR volunteers — especially those trained in mud-out operations — are needed immediately in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, James said. Also needed: volunteers in chaplaincy, incident command administration and meal preparation.

James said the work is actually more clean-up and tear-out than mud-out, since there was little mud but much water damage.

“We’re just beginning to scratch the surface,” James said. “FEMA has had 17,000 calls for assistance in Massachusetts and 18,000 in Rhode Island. But this is way beyond all of us and we are believing God for great things. We need volunteers.

“All of our BCNE states need SBC help,” he said. “There are more towns flooded than we are able to respond to locally. Many are looking to us [BCNE] and we are looking to our sister conventions to rally. This is a pivotal opportunity and we need God to help us seize the day. The more Baptists are able to meet needs of the flood victims, the greater our churches’ value will be in the eyes of the people of New England.”

One incident command center has been set up at New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Mass. New England Baptists will lead that DR response, with support from teams from Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

At BCNE’s request, the North American Mission Board will manage a second incident command center at Camp Canonicus in Rhode Island, the state hardest hit by the historic floods. Teams from Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina and Kentucky are en route to Camp Canonicus near Warwick, R.I., said Terry Henderson, NAMB’s disaster relief operations consultant, who is on the scene, along with the roving husband-wife team of Paul and Tommie Palmer of Idaho.

James, who also heads up evangelism and men’s leadership development for the Baptist Convention of New England, said the flooding occurred at a time of increased evangelistic activity among New England Southern Baptists.

“Ninety-three of our BCNE churches, representing seven different languages, committed to GPS recently,” James said of Southern Baptists national God’s Plan for Sharing evangelistic initiative.

“These churches, along with our partners from Texas and North Carolina, literally saturated New England with prayer, asking the Lord to open the hearts of New Englanders during this Easter season. God is at work in New England,” James aid.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said his state recorded two 50-year storms just during the last two weeks. The state recorded nearly 13 inches of rainfall in March, breaking a record set in 1953.

With disaster relief work also ongoing in Haiti and American Samoa, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network is spread thin, said Bruce Poss, disaster relief coordinator at NAMB’s offices in Alpharetta, Ga.

“With all the responses in 2009 and 2010 — especially Haiti and American Samoa — now we’re coming up on hurricane season starting June 1,” Poss said, adding that this year’s hurricane season is predicted to be above average in activity.

“We’ve been expending a lot of volunteer time in Haiti and in managing the Buckets of Hope [Haiti food project] project across the United States. But we now desperately need mud-out volunteers for New England,” Poss said.

Haiti DR work continues to be centered around demolition operations to move piles of rubble — the remains of churches and homes devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake. With Haiti’s high heat and humidity and in the current annual rainy season, the work is especially difficult. DR medical teams continue to do most of their work outside Port-Au-Prince.

As to the Buckets of Hope initiative, an estimated 150,000 buckets of food have been collected at warehouses in Florida and Shreveport, La. Some 111,000 Florida-warehoused buckets already are en route to Haiti, while 40,000 Shreveport-based buckets are now in containers headed for a ship scheduled to leave Houston on April 16, arriving in Port-Au-Prince on May 2.

It is uncertain how long it will take for the shipping containers filled with pallets of food buckets to be processed through customs in Haiti before the buckets can be distributed to needy Haitians by Haitian Baptist churches. Even after the shipping containers arrive in Haiti, distribution will be tightly controlled, with only a small number of containers unloaded and distributed each week.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief responds to disasters across the United States and around the world. Donations are fully tax deductable and 100 percent of all gifts are used to meet the needs of hurting people in the wake of disasters. Donations can be made online at www.namb.net/dr; by phone, 1-866-407-6262; or by mail, with checks made payable to “North American Mission Board” and sent to Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. To donate via cell phone texting, text the word nambdr to 40579. A $10 donation will be charged to your cell phone account and sent to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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