By Josie Rabbitt
LUMBERTON—When Victor Slaughter turned on the news, weather predictions appeared grim for his area. Slaughter and his wife, Deana, knew their home was in danger of life-threatening flooding because of Hurricane Florence, so they sought refuge at his mother’s home in Butner, a little over two hours north of their home.
“After a few days, I really became anxious to find a way to help others,” Slaughter said. “I was ready to get to work.”
The Slaughters volunteered for the first time with the North Carolina Baptist Men and Women Disaster Relief Ministry. Husband and wife took a bus to serve with a Baptist group working their Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) feeding unit in Region Four located in wind-ravaged Wilmington.
“We aren’t sure how our own house is doing,” said Slaughter. “But we’ve seen pictures of our area. It doesn’t look good. Our house was flooded during Hurricane Matthew. We’re just trusting God to provide and protect us, too.”
The family has had to trust God through a previous hurricane, when they started their own chaplaincy ministry and after they left their current home because of Hurricane Florence.
“I would encourage people to get involved in disaster relief,” Slaughter said. “It is a way to engage with folks who enjoy going deeper into faith.”
The North American Mission Board’s compassion ministry arm, Send Relief, has been partnering with several Southern Baptist state convention’s disaster relief efforts to provide the maximum amount of crisis response to natural disasters. Chainsaws, generators and other equipment and much-needed supplies were loaded onto four semi-trailers September 11-12 at Southern Baptist’s Appalachian Ministry Center in northeastern Kentucky before Hurricane Florence made landfall.
“We have enjoyed a great response from our local volunteers,” said Rob Allen, director of Appalachian Ministry Center. “They’ve helped pack items from the warehouse to send as well as some folks from here making delivery’s to the affected areas.”
Mobile feeding kitchens are at nine locations across eastern North Carolina. Feeding operations continued at seven of those sites where thousands of meals were provided. Recovery operations are underway in most of these same locations plus many others.
Three North Carolina feeding units are located in Wilmington, Lumberton and New Bern. Kentucky is serving in Jacksonville and Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief is serving in Kinston. Missouri and Alabama Baptists volunteers are serving in Wallace and Hope Mills. Florida and Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief will be serving in Whiteville and Bolivia, North Carolina.
“The strategy is to set up sites that can be hubs and have food taken out from there to a number of surrounding areas,” said Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men and Women Disaster Relief Ministry. “The North Carolina Baptist Men and Women Disaster Relief Ministry is working with our partners at the Red Cross and the Salvation Army in the placement of these large feeding kitchens to try to help as many people as we can. In some cases, there are places we would like to be but are cut off due to the flooding still.”
Feeding operations are at Second Baptist Church in Washington and Temple Baptist Church in New Bern. New feeding sites with large kitchens include sites in Wilmington, Kinston, Jacksonville, Lumberton and Fayetteville. Virginia General Baptists are set up for mass feeding at Second Baptist Church in Washington, North Carolina. They are also doing disaster recover including mud-outs, tear-outs at that location. Temple Baptist Church in New Bern has a feeding unit and kitchen with a recovery operation there as well. Two other large kitchen units are in Wilmington and Lumberton.
“I have yet to see any other volunteer group do so much good,” volunteer Todd Bartlett said. “Baptist are a well-oiled machine. I had the honor of volunteering with them during Hurricane Matthew, too, and they do so much good.”
Many other states are sending recovery teams and volunteers.
Bill Martin, North Carolina’s disaster recovery coordinator is working at setting up disaster recovery including mud-out, chainsaw and tear-out sites to help as many people as possible.
“The challenges today have been the numerous due to road closures affecting our ability to get big feeding units in where we want them and are preventing us from getting food deliveries to some locations,” Martin said. “This will be a long term response.”
But thanks to the efforts of state conventions’ disaster relief responses and NAMB’s Send Relief volunteers, equipment and ministry center in Appalachia, 66,000 meals have been served, 672 cases of bottled water handed out, 340 roofs rolled, 224 showers have been provided and 42 home assessments have been provided thus far.
Also, 65 pastor packs including generators, chainsaws, supplies for chainsaws, power strips, chaps, helmets, gas cans and water filters have been distributed like they are in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit last Fall.
SBDR is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services.
NAMB provides national coordination and assistance in larger, multi-state responses and has given 1,176 crisis buckets through Send Relief’s crisis response efforts to help homeowners conduct home clean-ups.
Josie Rabbitt Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.