"What we are now calling "ground zero" covers the continental United States, as the dispersion of Hurricane Katrina survivors is bringing this disaster to each of our communities," said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization at the North American Mission Board.
"This is an extraordinary opportunity for Southern Baptists to rise to the occasion and model our passion for missions to the world."
Over the Labor Day weekend, NAMB President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord announced two initiatives designed to help damaged SBC churches recover and to offer assistance to people displaced by the storm — Houses of Hope for displaced victims, and Adopt a Church for affected SBC congregations.
Reccord participated in a meeting with President Bush the morning of September 6 in which disaster relief efforts and priorities were discussed.
"The president acknowledged the importance of faith-based groups in the immediate response to this crisis but also in the important role we can play in the long-term emotional and spiritual recovery that must take place," Reccord said.
Other attendees included leaders from the Red Cross and Salvation Army, groups that partner with Southern Baptists in providing meals and other critical services in the wake of disasters.
"[The president] told us one of the biggest things needed now is hope, and he called on us to be the hope-givers," Reccord said. "I asked him to consider a national day of prayer, similar to the one we had after September 11. He said it's something he's already working on."
Reccord said the meeting ended in prayer as all of the participants and the president held hands and asked for God's guidance in carrying out their disaster relief efforts.
Now is the time Southern Baptists can make a difference for Christ in literally thousands of peoples' lives, Burton said.
"We know churches and associations across the Convention are making gallant efforts to shelter hurricane survivors. NAMB recognizes this is new territory for each of us. We are working with the American Red Cross and others to create guidelines that help churches and families make good decisions about their participation," he said.
"Obviously the Houses of Hope initiative will be one of the best opportunities in our lifetime for the church to be Jesus' hands and feet. Certainly we have a biblical mandate and pattern from the New Testament to help people in need. Now is the time," Burton said.
Volunteers, Burton said, are serving heroically in very challenging circumstances.
"Our units are creatively facing logistical challenges of re-supply. I'm very proud of the efforts taking place in the field. It is hard for most of us to understand the challenges faced by disaster responders. That's why we need to be in constant prayer for them as well as the survivors of this hurricane," he said.
"Between the heat, the destruction, and logistical challenges, they are laboring to be light during a very dark time in the region."
The Southern Baptist Convention has announced two initiatives to help with long-term disaster relief aid. The Adopt a Church initiative will enable Southern Baptist Churches to connect with sister churches impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The Houses of Hope initiative will connect Southern Baptist congregations with Katrina evacuees who need long-term housing. Registration and information about both initiatives can be found at www.namb.net/dr.
After a church registers for Adopt a Church or Houses of Hope, information is forwarded to an affected state convention which will have the responsibility of matching partner churches, individuals, and families.