Five weeks after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief teams are packing up to come home.
“It’s faster than I thought — I anticipated us being there at least two more weeks,” said Mark Wakefield, state disaster relief strategist.
Alabama Baptist teams — which have been based in Arcadia, Florida, throughout the effort — took in 1,005 requests for help from area residents. After the water receded and volunteers began cleanup efforts, they completed 480 job requests in less than a month with the help of teams from South Carolina and Tennessee.
“To clear that many in a month is pretty good,” Wakefield said.
‘Delighted’ to serve
The remaining work orders didn’t need to be completed for a variety of reasons — either another organization helped out, insurance took care of the need or volunteer teams weren’t able to complete the request because it wasn’t within the scope of their work, said Dan Wiggins, who is currently serving as the white hat leader on site.
He said teams were “delighted” to be able to complete the work requests still outstanding earlier this week.
Wiggins, who also serves as state chaplain coordinator for Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief, said he’s also grateful for the 35 people who decided to follow Christ after conversations with disaster relief volunteers.
Many were homeowners; others were people whom Wiggins said God brought across their path at just the right time, like three firefighters who gave their lives to Jesus after a chaplain shared the gospel with them.
“They had fought a fire earlier that day,” Wiggins said, “and our chaplain was able to talk with them about how their lives were on the line every time they went out and asked if they didn’t make it back, would they end up in heaven? All three invited Jesus into their life.”
The next day, another chaplain was at the Salvation Army and met the woman who had lost her home in the same fire.
“We were able to bless her and give her some gift cards and get her some new shoes because she didn’t have any,” Wiggins said. “That was a God thing.”
Wakefield said the effort in Arcadia was made possible by the generosity of Alabama Baptists who have given to state disaster relief work. They’ve provided all the heavy equipment used in the effort, as well as the mobile kitchens and shower and laundry tables. And volunteers have generously given of their time and resources to keep the flow of work going, he said.
“Alabama Baptists have been very generous and are willing to step up and give,” Wakefield said. “We’re grateful for that.”
For more information, visit sbdr.org.