Alabama Baptists help with cleanup efforts after Hurricane Florence

Disaster Relief (DR) volunteers from multiple states including Alabama have been deployed to the Carolinas to assist in cleanup efforts following the localized flooding and storm damage wrought by Hurricane Florence.

Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief strategist Mark Wakefield said DR volunteers from several Alabama Baptist associations began arriving in North Carolina on Sept. 17. Many faced road closures and downed trees as they traveled. The teams are staging at Southview Baptist Church, Hope Mills, North Carolina.

An Alabama Baptist feeding unit and a shower/laundry unit were in place as of Sept. 21, and several units were doing mudout and chainsaw work in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, area. Assessors were working to identify needs.

“They are telling me there are places that are hard hit not far from here,” Wakefield said.

Alabama Baptist DR teams are getting direction from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Wakefield said. Those operating the feeding unit also are coordinating with North Carolina Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross to establish a plan for feeding community members.

“We don’t know yet how many meals will be needed,” Wakefield said. “The feeding numbers may go up as people return home.”

Wakefield added that more mudout teams will probably be needed as record floodwaters recede.

Widespread damage

More than 30 inches of rain fell in some regions of North and South Carolina as Florence made landfall Sept. 14 and moved inland. Flooding, power outages and structural damage were widespread and at least 42 deaths were attributed to the storm as of Sept. 21.

Dozens of churches, as well as buildings at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly and the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, reported storm damage.

The heavy rains and flooding meant some DR efforts had to wait. Floodwaters also cut off access to some cities in need of help.

In Wilmington, North Carolina, 117,000 residents were on “an island” surrounded by floodwater, said Roy Smith, network missionary for the Cape Fear Network of Baptist Churches. Days after Florence made landfall, a feeding unit scheduled for setup at First Baptist Church, Wilmington, could not be reached by DR workers, he said, and chainsaw crews could not enter the city.

Members of Wilmington-area Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church removed downed trees from houses and patched roofs with tarps, Smith said. But they were on pace to run out of tarps, with no way of leaving the area to buy more.

Needs assessment ongoing

The North American Mission Board (NAMB), which coordinates multi-state disaster responses, reported that DR units from at least nine state conventions were in place to help storm victims and emergency workers in communities affected by the storm.

As of Sept. 21, assessment teams continued to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state emergency management agencies in the Carolinas along with The Salvation Army and American Red Cross to determine where resources will be needed and how best to get those resources in place as floodwaters recede.

As Baptist state conventions partner with NAMB in the disaster relief effort, the response is “a true testimony to the effectiveness of the partnerships throughout all state conventions,” said David Melber, president of Send Relief, NAMB’s crisis response arm.

In New Bern, North Carolina, Temple Baptist Church served as a staging site for DR workers. Temple pastor Jim Pennington said believers have given physical help with spiritual encouragement, as in the case of a man whose house was destroyed shortly after he canceled his homeowner’s insurance policy.

‘God is going to use this’

Drawing on Jesus’ stilling of a storm in Mark 4, Pennington told the man, “God’s promise to you is that He will get you to the other side of this.” Sobbing, the man responded, “I needed that.”

Despite the destruction, Baptists have much to anticipate as they spread the love of Christ in the Tar Heel State, Pennington said.

“It’s amazing how God is going to use this to reach our community for Christ,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever.” (BP, TAB)

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