Blessings from Disaster Relief a Decade Later

This is the first of three articles from a Disaster Relief feature spread in our Fall 2020 BaptistLIFE magazine.

A Long Look Back 

by Ellen Udovich

Disasters can strike anytime, anywhere, and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Disaster Relief (DR) brings help, healing, and hope to individuals and communities affected by disasters, large and small. 

The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) partners with national, state, and local ministries to support churches seeking to minister to their neighbors in times of crisis. 

Fruit from DR, however, doesn’t always mature overnight. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, years, or even decades. It often takes a long look back to see God’s hand at work in the midst of a crisis. Yet DR volunteers continue to serve with humility and joy, confident in God’s promise. “Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) 

Ellen Udovich serves a BCM/D church services and community engagement consultant.

By Sharon Mager

When Mitch Young, the pastor of Maryland City Baptist Church (MCBC) in Laurel, began his ministry with the church, he and another member began prayer-walks through Parkway Village, a nearby mobile home community. They prayed for residents and asked God to open doors for ministry to the community. But they didn’t expect God to slam open the doors with 60-mile-per-hour winds two years later.

On June 29, 2012, a rare derecho hit the area. The powerful line of severe thunderstorms that raced from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic area resulted in 22 deaths, millions of power outages, and $2.9 billion in damage. All 300 houses in the little mobile home community lost their electricity and many had extensive damage — so much that some people could no longer stay in their homes. That storm had a profound effect on MCBC’s members and the community that is felt even today.

After the storm, the church, amazingly, still had electricity, and they offered their facility to the Parkway Village community as a “cooling site,” a welcoming oasis during the blistering heat of a 100-degree stretch. They also provided overnight shelter and meals, as well as storm cleanup with the assistance of volunteers from the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D) Disaster Relief (DR) chainsaw crew and South Columbia Baptist Church’s (SCBC) youth group.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to work with the disaster relief team,” said Young. “They’re really good people. God has blessed us with them. We were also very thankful for the help from SCBC.”

Reflecting on that time eight years ago, Young said God blessed tremendously. “We really began building relationships. A few people came to the Lord and became part of the church body. Some are still here.”

God used the church’s loving service, spurred on by the storm damage, to completely change the relationship MCBC had with the community. Prior to the derecho, Young said they had tried several times to reach out to the mobile home management company with no or little response.

Now, Parkway Village management invites the church to be part of local events, including a community day, where the church set up a booth, interacted with residents, and gave away hot foods and canned goods. The church has been involved with several local Girl Scout Troop food drives. MCBC also made sure the residents of Parkway Village were invited to movies on the lawn and they changed their “church picnic” to a “community picnic.” Young has also had a great relationship with all of the property managers since the storm outreach.

The activity has put the church more “in tune” with their neighbors. Members recently discovered a family that was fearful to leave their home but needed assistance. As a result of COVID-19, the father was laid off. The children were no longer able to get food from school programs. Several women from the church visited the family and took food and supplies, communicating God’s love.

The church has become aware of a strong Hispanic community within Parkway Village and members are now praying, asking God how He wants them to reach out.

“We don’t want to ‘go do something to do something.’ We are seeking what God wants us to do,” Young said.

Looking back before the storm, Young said he and his wife, Kym, were praying about a mission trip – where did God want them to go and what did God want them to do?

Mitch said God answered, bringing the mission trip to them in the form of the derecho. As a result, they’re still seeing fruit and they’re still planting seeds and will continue to do so as long as the Lord tarries.

(Portions of this article were adapted from BaptistLIFE’s “Maryland City Baptist Church provides ‘Helping Hands during storm,’” by Shannon Baker, published on October 15, 2012.)

For more information about BCM/D Disaster Relief visit our website or contact Ellen Udovich.

Cover photo: BCM/D DR workers, members of MCBC and SCBC volunteers worked together to help neighbors in a nearby mobile home development in 2012. MCBC has continued to see spiritual growth from those efforts (submitted photo).