A damaged roof led to interior damage at the River Parishes Ministry Center of Global Maritime Ministries in Reserve, Louisiana.
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Hurricane Ida: Disaster Relief response begins amid ongoing efforts to restore water, power to hard-hit areas

Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief teams will be part of a massive cleanup effort in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, which struck the state Aug. 29 as a Category 4 storm.

Ida made two landfalls, the first near Port Fourchon and the second in Lafourche Parish, with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph at the height of the storm. The strong winds downed trees and power lines, causing what officials deemed “catastrophic transmission damage” to the region’s power infrastructure.

Heavy rains caused localized flooding of several cities in the storm’s path.

Several deaths have been attributed to Ida as of Sept. 1.

Downed tree limbs on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary await the wood chipper. (Facebook photo)

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary escaped major damage from Ida, according to the seminary’s president, Jamie Dew. The main issues were trees blown over and minor roof damage to some buildings, Dew said. In a Sept. 1 video update, Dew said he expected electricity to be restored to the campus much sooner than the initial estimate of 2–3 weeks. And, he noted, debris was awaiting the wood chipper and roofers were on-site to make repairs.

Dew pledged the seminary’s support to students, staff and faculty displaced by Ida, promising NOBTS administrators would do what they could to help each member of the NOBTS family. He also said donations were coming in to help displaced students and faculty.

“Let us know how we can help you,” he said. “We’re grateful for you. The Lord will get us through this.”

Damage reports

More than 80 Southern Baptist churches in South Louisiana suffered structural damage in Hurricane Ida, Louisiana Baptist Convention Director of Missions John Hebert told Baptist Press.

“We have churches ranging from desperate to recovering, and the desperate ones need help. They’re below I-10. Insurance rates are out of this world. It’s going to be tough for them,” Hebert said. “But most of our churches will be OK in the long run. It’s just right now, we have a crisis at hand and we need all the help we can get.

“We need volunteers, we need money, we need relief supplies, and that’s what we’re focused on right now, is relief,” Hebert said. “The next phase of this is rebuild. You help them get stabilized, and then you can think about starting to rebuild and get it back the way it was. We need help getting these churches stabilized right now.”

Churches in several communities in Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. John the Baptist and Jefferson parishes were damaged, including churches on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain and spanning more than 150 miles inland to Denham Springs, Baptist Press reported.

First Baptist Church Reserve received extensive damage to the interior of its fellowship hall and education space when portions of the roof blew away.

Global Maritime Ministries, which works with seafarers and maritime workers in southeast Louisiana, reported major damage at its River Parishes Ministry Center in Reserve and roof damage at its New Orleans Ministry Center.

GMM officials said that even as they assess their own recovery needs, they have reached out to contacts in the maritime community to see what needs exist there as well.

“We will begin to assess the ministry opportunities and needs we can help meet,” according to Stephen McKinney, GMM assistant director.

Even before Ida made landfall, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief was planning its response. And within hours, disaster relief teams from several states had set up command centers at churches near the most affected areas.

Six mass feeding units were set up in the region in coordination with the Red Cross and will be capable of providing thousands of meals each day for residents, first responders and volunteers.

Mel Johnson, lead mission strategist for Autauga Baptist Association and a member of the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief task force, said admin teams, assessors, chaplains and volunteers with feeding, shower/laundry, chainsaw and cleanup and flood recovery units were all ready to deploy, even before Ida hit.

ABDR expected to help with cleanup in Mississippi, but fortunately damage there was much less severe than expected, Johnson said.

As part of the coordination between state conventions through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Alabama will partner with South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief in Louisiana, Johnson said.

Long-term need

The disaster response in Louisiana is likely to last multiple weeks, he predicted, and volunteers will be needed to meet a wide range of needs, including flood recovery for many homes impacted in the area.

Johnson urged Alabama Baptists to pray for all disaster relief volunteers and leaders as they plan and respond to the many needs created by the storm.

He said chaplains especially need prayer, as they are the “tip of the spear in terms of sharing the gospel to provide help, healing and hope with those who are in crisis.”

To donate to hurricane relief, go to sbdr.org/donate. Donations also may be sent to: Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, Attn: Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 681970, Prattville, Alabama 36068-1970.

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