By Dave Jones
Every wondered what a typical day in disaster relief ministry looks like? Volunteers from the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network often team up with neighboring state conventions to offer their assistance when disaster strikes.
Dave and Pattie Jones of Southern Maryland have participated in several excursions to assist families who have been affected by flooding and other disasters. This past spring, the couple deployed with other Maryland/Delaware volunteers to Louisiana where record flooding demolished homes and churches. More recently, they traveled closer to home, assisting families in Pennsylvania.
CLEARFIELD, Pa.—Pattie and I rolled into Woodland Family Campground on Sunday afternoon, parked “The Bus” (our affectionate term for our RV), put on our disaster relief shirts, and headed to the volunteer fire department in Clearfield, Pa.
Here we met Kenton Hunt, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) director for the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey. Kenton and a few volunteers had set-up a shower unit and were taking inventory and stocking the recovery unit trailer. We jumped right in and got everything loaded up.
About 9 p.m., we were finished and the five of us went for a late supper at a local truck stop to get to know each other and discuss the mission ahead.
The previous week, a SBDR member and HAM radio operator in Oklahoma had been monitoring an emergency management frequency when he heard chatter about extreme rainfall in Pennsylvania.
The town of Clearfield was mentioned more and more and it was apparent that something bad was happening there, and it was happening very fast. He called Kenton and told him something big had happened in Clearfield.
In turn, Kenton contacted two “Blue Hat” (experienced in assessments and team management) SBDR members and asked them to go check on Clearfield.
They found Clearfield had experienced an unusual weather pattern that dumped over five inches of rain in less than four hours. Areas that you would never believe could flood had water rise several feet as the drainage system became overwhelmed.
Just as quickly as the water came; it drained away leaving behind devastating destruction.
Monday morning, we arrived early at the fire department where local Salvation Army volunteers prepared us meals each day and volunteers slept (Pattie and I are blessed to have “The Bus” and our own bed!).
After breakfast and devotional time, we headed to our first home and met the single elderly lady who had her basement and first floor flooded. She said the water came in so fast; she barely had time to get to her stairs and call 911 from the second floor.
Pattie worked with teammates on the first floor while another volunteer, Chad, and I went to the basement.
The unlit basement had about six inches of mud covering the floor. The heating oil tank had floated up and down smashing the ductwork, and the furnace was full of silt and ruined.
We set up emergency lighting and got a sump pump running to pull water out. A bucket brigade was set up to haul out the mud we shoveled. Then we cut out all the duct work and the furnace and removed them.
Chad put on protective gear and I pushed him through the muddy crawlspace to pull out the wet insulation. When we emerged, we were exhausted and covered in mud.
The team on the first floor cut walls and pulled out wet insulation. They had to gut the kitchen and utility room. We had to pressure wash everything and then treat it for mold. This pattern repeated itself all week with some houses requiring this level of work and others just being treated for mold as the owners worked to clean up their property.
By the next Sunday night, SBDR volunteers supported by the Salvation Army had responded to over 80 homes.
There are no Southern Baptist churches in Clearfield, so on the following Sunday, we each found different churches where we could worship.
After church, we serviced two more homes, then cleaned and packed away our equipment while Kenton trained local Methodist Church leaders and volunteers so they could take over when we departed.
Sunday night, the few volunteers remaining celebrated with dinner out and said our goodbyes until the next time.
David Jones is a USAF Colonel (retired), Gulf War Vet and ordained deacon. His wife Pattie was the receptionist and Sunday school director at Dunkirk Baptist Church.
For more information on the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization, go to www.bcmd.org/disaster-relief.