By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—The Bible is clear there will be famines and earthquakes in the end times. And even now, there are constant reports of massive blizzards, fires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes.
And in the midst of it all, there are Southern Baptist volunteers who are ready to respond—and to share the Good News of Jesus.
According to the American Public Health Association, the American Red Cross responds to more than 70,000 disasters and emergencies, human-made or natural, in any given year.
So far this year (as of May 1), the North American Mission Board reported volunteers for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, one of the largest mobilizers of trained, credentialed disaster relief volunteers in the United States, have already provided more than 42,700 meals, participated in 485 chainsaw jobs, washed nearly 300 loads of laundry and presented the Gospel nearly 350 times with 34 people making decisions for Christ.
Altogether, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief assets encompass 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation.
Still early in its ministry, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s Disaster Relief began in September 2001, when trained volunteers were sent to New York City in response to the World Trade Center attacks.
The first in-state response using Maryland/Delaware’s own volunteers and equipment occurred in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel ravished the area.
To date, there are over 300 trained Disaster Relief volunteers who stand ready to help when disaster strikes.
Already, in its short history, the Maryland/Delaware Disaster Relief ministry has acquired two feeding units, two recovery units (with a third one almost ready), and a chaplain unit, laundry unit and communications unit. A shower unit is forthcoming and will be ready by the beginning of the hurricane season.
In addition to regular ongoing training opportunities to equip volunteers for ministry through each of these units, the BCM/D prepares local church volunteers to respond to disasters in their local communities.
Mako Kneale of First Baptist Church of Upper Marlboro, Md., is one such volunteer. She has deployed five times to minister after disasters, traveling as far as Galveston, Texas, and Raleigh, N.C.
“Whenever I go for disaster relief, I see people who are so desperate,” she shared, noting she felt called to Disaster Relief because she was a victim of a disaster when she was a child.
“I knew as a Christian, no matter how much we lost of our stuff, we never lost our most precious gift from God, and that is God’s love and hope,” she said.
Last year, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, Kim Delamarter, from Bayside Baptist Church, Chesapeake Beach, Md., led the Disaster Relief feeding unit in Salisbury, Md., where the American Red Cross staged an emergency shelter in the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.
She estimated that the BCM/D Disaster Relief feeding unit served 4,000 meals during the height of the hurricane, including meals for approximately 1,000 shelter guests, another 500 first responders and nearby zoo workers as well as food for four other Red Cross shelters in Delaware.
“We actually cooked in the Civic Center’s kitchen because the wind was blowing so hard on our [Disaster Relief] trailers,” she said.
Like many other volunteers, Delamarter left her own home in the path of the hurricane so that she could serve in the unit.
“We drove into the storm as others were driving away from it,” she said. “I think that is what we are supposed to do… help others when they need it.”
In addition to meeting physical needs, Southern Baptists help area residents emotionally and spiritually, especially needed in the loss of one’s home or belongings.
Accordingly, each time the BCM/D deploys a Disaster Relief team, they always try to send out a trained Disaster Relief chaplain with them to minister to these needs.
“The homes I have been at, the families are so grateful we are there. In most cases, they had nowhere else to turn for help. There will be a great opportunity to minister to these families well after the relief work is completed,” shared Richard Logsdon, director of missions for the Potomac Baptist Association in Maryland, who led recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. “Among those were a whole family of three who committed their lives to Christ.”
Brian Hart of Glen Burnie, Md., shared his reason for volunteering. “In 1 Peter 1:3, it says that God gave us hope—in His mercy He gave us hope. So, it’s in my heart to share with people who have been in a disaster or calamity or suffered in some way that God loves them, and there is hope.”
SBC Disaster Relief 2012 Activity Report*:
Professions of Faith – 34
Gospel presentations – 346
Chaplaincy contacts – 753
Ministry contacts – 2,261
Other decisions – 10
Volunteer days – 3,348
Meals prepared – 42,729
Chainsaw jobs – 485
Mudout jobs – 1
Fire cleanup/Debris removal – 141
Repair/roofing jobs – 33
Showers – 803
Laundry loads – 291
Children cared for – 203
*Source: NAMB.net (May 1, 2012)