Disaster relief leaders meet to train, plan for upcoming year

By Laura Sikes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteer Jason Yarbrough kicked off his first year as state disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of Oklahoma by attending the annual SBDR roundtable Jan. 24-26 at North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Yarbrough was one of 38 state SBDR directors, out of 42 state Baptist conventions, who gathered to review the past year’s work and to discuss plans for the future. The directors joined with about 200 leaders and volunteers who took part in committee meetings and a variety of training and information sessions.

Jason Yarbrough, new state disaster relief director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, talks with fellow Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) of Oklahoma volunteers Nancy Charlton, left, of First Baptist Church, Union City and Teri Fuller of First Baptist Church, Medicine Park during a break at the annual SBDR roundtable Jan. 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla. Yarbrough was one of 38 state SBDR directors who attended the roundtable. NAMB photo by Laura Sikes.

The former pastor of 11 years and member of Glenpool First Baptist of Glenpool, Okla., Yarbrough just began serving as his state’s SBDR director Jan. 1. He attended the new state directors’ orientation breakout group at his very first roundtable.

Yarbrough is looking forward to serving and to future opportunities with SBDR.

“I will key in on building relationships with our pastors, directors of missions and associations and share with our local churches to come and be a part of us,” he said.

Many shared in the spirit of Yarbrough’s enthusiasm, such as fellow state director Scottie Stice, SBDR director for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and outgoing chair of the SBDR’s steering committee.

Stice is excited about the strengthening of relationships between the state leaders and national leaders such as Send Relief, the joint compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. Send Relief comes alongside SBDR efforts and provides recovery resources and food to support its ministries to disaster survivors.

“We’ve got the best relationships now since I’ve been in DR,” said Stice, who began serving in disaster relief in 1984 with Texas Baptist Men.

“Our main goal is for continued growth of the partnerships we already have,” said Stice who has served for the past three years on SBDR’s steering committee. He has served as state director of disaster relief for SBTC since 2014.

Those partnerships were exemplified in the SBDR’s response after Hurricane Ian hit Florida, he said.

“All resources from our state are available for Florida, and I’m looking for Florida to have a win,” Stice added.

Send Relief’s crisis response director, Coy Webb, agreed and said the roundtable meeting was very positive. He looks forward to growing current partnerships and to building on SBDR’s rich legacy.

“The future is bright. We are in a great time. Our unity is as strong as it’s ever been,” Webb said.

“We’re growing in our understanding in how we work best together, and God is doing some really good things.”

Webb joined the feeding committee meeting which was attended by about 50 roundtable participants who came from all six SBDR regions with representatives from several states.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) state directors and about 200 others attended the annual SBDR roundtable on Jan. 24-26 at North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. From left to right: Dan Fuller with SBDR of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma; Send Relief’s crisis response director Coy Webb; David Wells, state director for Texas Baptist Men; Michael Jansen, task force member for Southern Baptists of Texas (SBTC) and Scottie Stice, SBDR director for SBTC and outgoing chairman of the SBDR’s steering committee. NAMB photo by Laura Sikes.

Karen Smith, SBDR feeding committee national chair, led the group and said she felt a sense of excitement during the meeting.

“This is the biggest committee meeting we’ve had since I’ve come to a roundtable,” said Smith, who has attended about 16 roundtables. Smith of Pleasant View Baptist in Waynesburg, Ky., is also feeding coordinator of Kentucky Baptist SBDR and has been a volunteer for 28 years.

The feeding committee is working on a more precise plan to use all the equipment such as forklifts, freezer trailers, kitchens and dry storage that God has provided to our state conventions, she said.

“I came away from our committee meeting, workshops and our roundtable itself with a sense of unity to do God’s work together,” Smith said.

“We are ready to go when He calls,” she said.

Clara Hohmann, national feeding coordinator for region 1 (West), attended the meeting and said she was pleased about the group’s plans.

Ed Greene, director of disaster relief for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, leads a presentation on responding to tornadoes during the rapid/quick response meeting at the roundtable in Jacksonville, Fla. Greene is a member of Sagebrush Church in Rio Rancho, N.M., and has served in disaster relief for 20 years. The session took place during the annual Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) roundtable Jan. 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla. NAMB photo by Laura Sikes.

“We are going to be stepping out in faith and will do more in SBDR, especially with feeding, and have more personal contact [during responses],” said Hohmann, of Redemption Church in Ogden, Utah.

The Rapid/Quick strike response to disaster session also had a high attendance with all six SDBR regions represented by several states from North Carolina, Alaska and Vermont to Hawaii.

Dwain Carter, director of Mobilization and Disaster Relief of Georgia SBDR, led the group of about 50 who listened to presentations from region leaders.

The group discussed all types of responses to mass floodings, tornadoes and hurricanes to earthquakes.

“Mass flooding will be an event that every state sooner or later will experience,” Carter noted.

But state director Dennis Belz of Colorado Baptist Disaster Relief reminded volunteers to be ready to respond to all types of situations, unexpected and out of the box ones.

For example, he said his SBDR group in Denver is now considered as “the experts” at graffiti removal after helping with cleanup after the civil unrest in 2020 in the city.

“(The cleanup) gave us an opportunity to get in the community and share the gospel,” said Belz of Reclamation Church in East Boulder.

Carter also encouraged participants to not shy away from the unusual response.

“Everything we do is about bringing the gospel,” he said.

To cap off the event, volunteers were honored at an awards banquet. Several awards were given for distinguished service, including the Robert E. Dixon Lifetime Service award and the Joel W. Phillips Outstanding Achievement award.

Paula Collier, center, a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteer with Florida Baptists, joins in on the discussion during the feeding committee at the SBDR roundtable which took place Jan. 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla. Karen Smith, SBDR feeding committee national chair, led the meeting. Collier serves as liaison to Florida’s Emergency Operations Center. NAMB photo by Laura Sikes.

Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention expressed his appreciation to the group for SBDR’s response to Hurricane Ian when it devastated southwest Florida in September.

SBDR volunteers gave 248,000 hours and served 735,000 meals, he shared.

“You came, and you came big, and you helped us,” said Green. “You brought the love and compassion of Christ, and we thank you.”

Green shared a message from Philippians 3: 12 -14, in which Paul charges the faithful to keep pressing toward the goal.

“I say ‘thank you,’ tonight, because I know you keep pressing,” he said.

New England SBDR volunteer Edward Lucas, Southern Vermont Regional coordinator, left the dinner with a big smile.

“I loved being here for the training and the fellowship. It’s like family,” he said.

Published January 31, 2023

Laura Sikes

Laura Sikes writes for the North American Mission Board.