Southern Baptist Disaster Relief mud-out, chainsaw and roofing teams are being deployed across eastern Texas and southern Louisiana. Thus far, more than 1,500 people have learned about the love of Christ through this disaster response, and more than 340 people have made a profession of faith! Your gifts to the North American Crisis Response Fund are providing food, water, and other supplies for people affected by storms like Hurricane Laura.
Churches helping churches
The wide spread damage caused by Hurricane Laura impacted not only homes and businesses, but also many churches. Some of them may never open their doors again.
More than 100 Southern Baptist churches suffered damage because of the storm, which is significantly impacting their ability to minister in their communities. But churches across the country can partner with these Louisiana churches that were impacted by the hurricane by offering financial support as well as sending teams of volunteers to work with the church to clean up and rebuild. If your church is available to help another church in need, register here.
September 24, 2020
By Brandon Elrod
PENSACOLA, Fla.—Every year, the World Meteorological Organization maintains a list of 21 official names for major storms that originate in the Atlantic. In 2020, the season has been so active that they have had to turn to the Greek alphabet for names, including Tropical Storm Beta, which hit the Texas Gulf Coast September 21.
“That’s just been the kind of year that we’ve had, from COVID hitting in March, through the hurricane season getting started early,” said Sam Porter, national director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) with Send Relief. “We as Southern Baptists have to be ready at all times, and I’ve been grateful for the way we have been able to respond in unison.”
Hurricanes Laura and Sally have been the most significant storms to make landfall in the U.S. SBDR volunteers have prepared more than 477,000 meals for survivors in the aftermath of those storms.
Nearly 400,000 of those meals have been served following Laura. As mass care, public feeding starts to wind down in Louisiana, storm recovery efforts will continue at least into mid-to-late October following Laura’s widespread damage, which affected much of the state.
Volunteer chainsaw crews have completed more than 1,300 jobs as of September 22, cutting up downed trees primarily for residents who otherwise could not afford such help.
Recovery efforts following Hurricane Sally are well underway in Alabama and Florida after the storm made landfall late last week. SBDR teams have already prepared more than 80,000 meals, and response teams have started shifting into response mode.
The needs are great, and hundreds of requests for assistance have come in to SBDR leaders in Alabama and Florida. Delton Beall, director of SBDR for Florida Baptists, expects their response to last at least three to four more weeks.
“People don’t know what to say when we tell them this is a ministry provided by Southern Baptist churches and that it is free,” Beall said.
A volunteer in Florida told one homeowner struggling to believe there would be no charge that it would, at most, cost a few minutes of his time while volunteers spoke and prayed with him once the work was completed.
“I thought that was a pretty good line,” Beall said.
Beall and Mark Wakefield, disaster relief director with Alabama Baptists, are both requesting assistance from disaster relief teams in other states to help meet the needs of survivors.
Requests have centered primarily on tree-related damage more than flooding both in Alabama and in Florida, and teams have completed dozens of jobs so far.
“We are very grateful for our Southern Baptist family and for the prayers and financial support and for being here and being the hands and feet of Jesus when people need to have such a witness,” Beall said.
On Friday Sept. 18, Send Relief missionary Kay Bennett of Baptist Friendship House and her team in New Orleans delivered meals to SBDR teams in Alabama to feed survivors and volunteers who were already serving in the wake of Sally.
“I am energized every day seeing how God has been providing for our needs with supplies arriving at just the right time,” Porter said. “We have about a month left in hurricane season, and Southern Baptists, through SBDR and Send Relief, are together in this as we continue to meet needs.”
Posted as Southern Baptists near half-a-million meals prepared during hurricane response on September 24, 2020.
September 12, 2020
By Natalie Sarrett
More than 100 Southern Baptist churches devastated.
Power outages throughout the state.
With Hurricane Laura’s 150-mph winds and 12-foot storm surge, Louisiana suffered the strongest hurricane it has endured since 1865.
Since the storm made landfall two weeks ago, Send Relief and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams have been tirelessly working to serve survivors by preparing meals, providing laundry sites and distributing water, face masks and temporary roofing supplies. Through these projects, there have been over 650 gospel presentations, more than 700 Bibles distributed and nearly 170 new professions of faith.
But churches in the region are still in desperate need of help.
That’s where Louisiana Baptists are stepping into the gap to advocate for their congregations through a program called Churches Helping Churches.
Based on a similar initiative after the Baton Rouge floods, the program encourages one-on-one relationships between church bodies in which a congregation adopts one of the parishes most impacted by Hurricane Laura. The partnerships are based off of the financial capacity, size and focus areas of the adopting congregation, who are then matched with a complementary church. These pairings are often two- to three-year commitments to come alongside hurting communities as they.
“Individual churches can often act more quickly and effectively than larger companies, and our main goal is to see how we can funnel as many churches as possible into sharing ministry opportunities at their back door,” says Discipleship strategist for the Louisiana Baptists, Sean Keith. “It has become clear that one-on-one relationships are both the biggest encouragement and the best way to fill needs.”
Many pastors in the impact zone are overwhelmed and without power, making communicating and organizing clean-up efforts on their own even more difficult. Even worse, these pastors’ homes were also significantly affected, so some were left both without a workplace and a home. There are still many churches with gaping holes in the ceilings and trees splayed through windows, but these clean-up projects are so large that having a single church body commit to praying for the community and tackling odd jobs one-by-one is incredibly helpful.
“Pastors are exhausted and in need of emotional, physical, and economic support,” says Director of Missions, John Hebert. “The relief effort is well-organized and very effective, but the needs go beyond what we can do. We can help, but the real connection needs to be church-to-church.”
“The hardest thing about this storm is that this all happened on top of a pandemic, which heightened the issues we are facing,” adds Keith. “Everyone was already dealing with spiritual and emotional issues following the coronavirus, and frustrations are running high now that there is also a lack of power and water. Care for pastors is pivotal right now—knowing they’re not alone does wonders.”
Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptists, Dr. Steve Horn, also commented, “On the heels of COVID, this is a critical situation. Most of our churches’ giving has moved to online formats, but there’s limited electricity and internet so we are seeing many churches go weeks without revenue, on top of an inability to gather in community. These churches are in basic survival mode, with many families depending on food and water distributions, and the only way we are going to survive the magnitude of this situation is with churches from non-affected regions of our country helping us in the long-term.”
Getting to step into difficult situations on behalf of brothers and sisters in Christ is a powerful experience, and many partnering congregations have said that it has meant just as much to them as it has to those receiving aid. Whether it be laying tarps for temporary roofing or cutting up fallen trees, the goal of disaster response teams is to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
If your church is willing and able to help in the recovery of Southern Baptist churches across Louisiana, go to louisianabaptists.org/churches-helping-churches to get connected with a congregation in need today.
Posted as After the Storm: Churches Helping Churches on September 12, 2020.
August 28, 2020
By Brandon Elrod
LAKE CHARLES, La.—Send Relief, the compassion ministry of Southern Baptists, spent Friday morning (Aug. 28) delivering food and supplies for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR), beginning the morning in Beaumont, Texas and making a final stop in Lake Charles, La., in the early afternoon.
Once Hurricane Laura made landfall early Thursday morning (Aug. 27), Lake Charles endured the brunt of winds that reached 140 miles per hour. Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief will station some of their operations at Trinity Baptist Church in the heart of the town.
“There is no electricity anywhere in the city,” said Sam Porter, national director for SBDR with Send Relief and the North American Mission Board. “Some have said it looks like a hundred tornadoes landed in Lake Charles two nights ago. As we drove in with the truck from Send Relief, we had to dodge debris on the main road into the church.”
Before arriving in Lake Charles, Send Relief stopped at North Orange Baptist Church in Orange, Texas, to drop food and supplies for Texas Baptist Men, the SBDR team for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Carolyn Berry, an Orange, Texas resident, stopped by the church to request help from SBDR while Send Relief dropped off supplies. She and her family evacuated to Houston before Laura made landfall. She returned Friday and surveyed several downed trees in her yard, one of which landed on her roof.
“To come home and actually see the devastation, not only at my house, my house compared to some others is probably nothing,” she said. “I’ve seen trees actually through houses. I’ve seen trees blocking roads. There is a lot of devastation.”
Hurricane Laura was not the first major storm Berry had experienced.
“I recovered from Harvey just a couple months ago,” Berry said of the hurricane that hit the Texas Gulf Coast in 2017. “I just got my house straight from Harvey, and now I have this. It’s disheartening but thank God we have life.”
The rainy morning began with the Send Relief semi-truck pulling into Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City, Texas. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will use the church as a hub for disaster relief ministry to the surrounding community.
Lee Jackson, pastor of First Baptist Church Cannonsburg, Ky., has his commercial driver’s license CDL, which he earned during a stint between ministry positions. He drove the truck from a Send Relief ministry center in Ashland, Ky.
Jackson said that while he’s been on the road, he filmed a quick, livestream Wednesday night Bible study with his church, going through Baptist distinctives.
“This week just fell on evangelism and missions,” Jackson said. “So, it just worked out perfectly. I did a short video, short enough that I could post it to Facebook without a Wi-Fi connection. I did it from the cab of the truck.”
Send Relief stationed the truck in Ruston, La., Wednesday before traveling to Vidor, Texas on Thursday to begin delivering supplies from west to east, later arriving in the highly afflicted areas of southwest Louisiana and Lake Charles.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief will be launching its relief efforts over the weekend, including providing meals and sending out chainsaw and rolled-roofing crews to help repair their homes.
For more information or to donate to Southern Baptist relief efforts, visit sendrelief.org/Laura.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.
Posted as Send Relief delivers supplies as Southern Baptists ready Hurricane Laura response on August 28, 2020.
August 31, 2020
By Brandon Elrod
LAKE CHARLES, La.—In the wake of Hurricane Laura, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams from across the nation are converging on the Gulf Coast to serve storm survivors. Some, such as Lake Charles resident and Louisiana SBDR volunteer Reggy Saxon, only had to journey a few miles.
“We opted to ride the storm out in Moss Bluff, just north of Lake Charles at my daughter’s house. It was a pretty hair-raising experience,” recalled Saxon. “By the time the sun went down, it was totally surreal. Everything was calm and peaceful just like we’d always heard about before a storm.”
Then, Laura arrived early Thursday morning (Aug. 27) with winds in excess of 140 miles, making the hurricane one of the strongest storms to hit Louisiana.
When Saxon traveled to his daughter’s house the night before the storm, he brought a camper trailer filled with supplies and clothes. His daughter’s house came away with a few holes in the roof, but the storm blew Saxon’s camper onto its side, doors facing the ground so that the contents remain inaccessible.
Even so, Saxon and his family said they were blessed to have come out as well as they did. Down the road from Saxon’s daughter, several trees fell on a neighboring house. In another home, a tree went through a wall as if it had been hurled like a javelin.
At Saxon’s own home, numerous snapped and downed trees miraculously avoided his house, though wind and debris tore up his shed.
A few miles from where Saxon and his wife live are downed transmission power lines, some of the major towers that feed electricity from power plants to smaller cities and towns. Those towers coming down serve as a major reason why officials expect the power to be out for an extended period.
Severe damage to a water treatment plant in the area has created a major hurdle in getting water to the city as well.
“There are 200,000 people without water who aren’t likely to get it back for weeks. That’s how badly the infrastructure was damaged during the storm,” said Sam Porter, national director for SBDR with Send Relief and the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “People are driving 40 miles just to get gas and minimal food.”
That devastated infrastructure along with adhering to COVID-19 restrictions has created numerous challenges for many relief organizations seeking to establish the much-needed response, but Southern Baptist relief volunteers are persevering.
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and Louisiana Baptist SBDR teams began providing meals over the weekend and doing chainsaw work. The SBTC is operating out of Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City, Texas and Louisiana SBDR is at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La. Texas Baptist Men began serving in the community of Orange, Texas, basing their operations out of North Orange Baptist Church.
Steve Masters, who leads Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., gathered more than 70 BCM students and 15 adult volunteers from surrounding churches to make a day trip to Lake Charles.
“The tree damage from Hurricane Laura is horrific. It is the most widespread tree damage I have ever seen,” Masters shared.
The students are part of one of the first collegiate SBDR teams in the nation, which came together in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina. With trained leaders and equipment, they cut up trees and hauled debris to the street for nine different homes.
“The students spent the day working hard, helping others,” Masters noted. “They were energetic and flexible and worked very well together. They represented Christ in a great way.”
As the days and weeks roll on, SBDR volunteers from multiple states will travel to southwest Louisiana to cook meals and continue with the recovery and rebuilding effort. Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm for Southern Baptists, will continue sending recovery supplies.
Volunteers like Saxon persist despite the emotional and physical obstacles that accompany assisting a disaster response in their own back yard.
“We’re pretty resilient. Folks who work in disaster relief, we see a lot. We see people go through it, but it’s a little different when you’re going through it, and you’re tending to others as well,” Saxon said.
“But our hearts are still here. We’re the hands and feet of Christ. It’s our job to be there when people are in need,” he continued. “We are giving people hope out in that church parking lot that they don’t have before they come here.”
To donate to Hurricane Laura Southern Baptist relief efforts visit https://www.sendrelief.org/Laura/.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.
Posted as Southern Baptists serve meals, clear debris in aftermath of Hurricane Laura on August 31, 2020.