MONTPELIER, Vt. (BP)–As Southern Baptists ramp up recovery efforts in flood-stricken Vermont, an avalanche of requests for assistance is overwhelming available resources.
“We’re in desperate need of some mud-out teams,” said Bruce James, evangelism and men’s ministry director of the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE).
Said Jim Wideman, BCNE executive director, “There have been 600 requests for mud-out [work], and I don’t know that we’re going to be able to fulfill all of those. We just don’t have the personnel.”
One hundred mud-out requests have already been assessed and approved for work, said James, who serves as the convention’s disaster relief director. Four mud-out teams from South Carolina and California are on their way, but James estimated they can only do about 25 jobs total. He said the need for relief work in other states is stretching Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) resources.
“We’re spread thin right now, Southern Baptists are, and we thank God for the help that’s coming, but that’s a lot of the reason [we haven’t had more teams coming],” he said.
In the meantime, James said, local churches are stepping up to the plate with their own volunteers, some of whom are working in mud-out teams led by SBDR crew leaders. Four chaplains are needed immediately to minister with mud-out teams as they work in communities, he said.
SBDR currently has two incident command centers in Vermont, one at Resurrection Baptist Church in Montpelier and another at Capstone Baptist Church in North Bennington. Assessors are still on the ground, and SBDR is working with area church planters to help with disaster recovery and improve the church planters’ contacts with people in their communities.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been up here,” James said, “New Englanders … value things that add worth to their community and their way of life, and when they see a Southern Baptist team that’s come from a long ways off or the next state over, and they see them giving their time to help their community, they don’t forget that.”
Vermont will need longer-term recovery help, he said, with people needing to replace their furniture and have construction work done. Funds are being set aside for local churches and church planters to continue recovery in places where relief work is finished.
“It just keeps the process going,” James said. “So there will be lots of ministry opportunities for churches that want to follow up. There are some real relationships that get built out of this and can have a Kingdom impact.”
James asked for prayers that God will continue to open the hearts of people in Vermont to the Gospel, and that God will supply more workers for the effort.
“The fields up here are white unto harvest,” he said. “We just need laborers.”
John Evans is a writer based in Houston.