MD/DE DR Volunteers Host National Event

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NEWARK, De.— Over 200 Disaster Relief (DR) leaders and volunteers from across the nation arrived at Ogletown Baptist Church for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) Roundtable, Jan. 23-25. The annual training conference/business session was planned this year by the four Northeast state conventions, with Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware DR director Ellen Udovich and volunteers hosting.

Coy Webb (l) with Ellen Udovich (center) and George Blevins. George was awarded one of three Joel W. Phillips Outstanding Achievement Award. More news will be provided about this award and George Blevins in next week’s edition of our news. (Photo by Sharon Mager)

The mostly gold-bedecked army of compassionate workers is a unique group. Dan Hyun, who led a breakout session titled “Increasing Your Capacity to Serve: Healthy Rhythms for Helpers,” said this was his first time being at a large DR event, and he was impressed. “You have a particular culture and feel. You “get” each other.” Hyun also called the group heroes — giving of themselves to sacrificially help others in times of distress.

Disaster Relief volunteers refer to that culture as the “DR family,” and that family bond was very much in evidence as volunteers from 38 of 42 conventions, including Canada and Puerto Rico, reunited with partners they’ve worked with side by side in difficult, sometimes traumatic situations. Many recalled shared memories of the challenges and innovations surrounding recent events, including Hurricane Idalia, flooding in Vermont, the Maui fires, and other major events, as they shared coffee and snacks. There was also immediate camaraderie as total strangers became engaged in discussions while perusing the DR response trailers in the parking lot or between classes — sharing ideas and discovering ways to improve their DR work.

The conference offered a wide range of advanced training opportunities for volunteers in chaplaincy, using drones in damage assessment, managing a mass care feeding site, incident management administrative best practices, equipment safety and maintenance, and other technical and ministry topics.

Crisis Response Director for Send Relief Coy Webb said in addition to a wonderful turnout and some great training sessions, one of the highlights this year was an anticipated strengthened partnership with the Salvation Army. “It will be beneficial to both organizations, and we’re very excited,” Webb said, adding that he is particularly pleased that the Salvation Army is faith-based. “I think we’re going to see in the near future a great opportunity for us to have some partnership with them that will release some resources to strengthen our feeding ability in times of disaster.” Webb said, “We’re going to continue our relationship with the Red Cross, but I think at this point, we need to have multiple ways to respond.’

Donald Milam and Larry Davis of Grace Church, Seaford, share a lunch at the SBDR Roundtable event. Donald is the church’s director of missions and Larry is the pastor. (Photo by Shaorn Mager)

Webb said he was also pleased with a newly updated and revamped Disaster Relief Operations Manual.

Awards One of the most anticipated events of the annual roundtable is the awards dinner. Each year, volunteers are nominated for national awards by their state convention DR directors, with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Steering Committee making the final selection.

This year’s keynote speaker for the dinner was long-time national DR Leader Eddie Blackmon, who shared about the need to trust in the Lord. “Partners are important, but we need to partner with the Lord,” he said, sharing that he has witnessed many times how God has provided what was needed on the field.

Henry Blackaby’s book, “Experiencing God,” had a huge impact on Blackmon’s life, and that carried over to Disaster Relief. One of Blackaby’s major themes in the book was recognizing where God is working and joining Him in what He is doing. There’s no better ministry than DR for putting that into practice, said Blackmon. “God is all around you.”

Following Blackmon’s presentation, Webb stepped forward to oversee the awards ceremony. State DR directors had the honor of announcing the awards and sharing a few words about each recipient’s outstanding service before the presentation. Most recipients were stunned, and some seemed near tears.

The following awards were presented:

Distinguished Service Awards for their exceptional service  Michael Fujimoto, Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention Daniel Arnold, Northwest Baptist Convention Brian Gueringer, Louisiana Baptist Convention Tom Malott, Missouri Baptists Debbie Klepinger, State Convention of Baptists in Ohio Artie Horn, Missouri Baptists

Joel W. Phillips Outstanding Achievement Award Tom Waites, Louisiana Baptists Mike Bastin, Kentucky Baptist Convention George Blevins, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

Robert E. Dixon Award for a lifetime of service Linda Gregory, Florida Baptist Convention Jerry & Andy Cable, Kentucky Baptist Convention

Laddie Adams Retiring State Director Award: Mike Bivins – California Southern Baptist Convention

SBDR Steering Committee Service: Mark Wakefield, Alabama Baptist Convention Kenton Hunt, Baptist Resource Network, PA/S.NJ

Roundtable Business The Roundtable itself was held on the final day of the conference. Disaster Relief convention directors, Coy Webb, and other national leaders met to set the direction of the organization, hear reports, delegate to working committees, and set policy.

Maryland/Disaster Relief volunteers Alan Caho (l) from Faith Baptist Church, Knoxville and John Shutt, from New Life Church, Inwood, W.Va,  (r) take a moment to enjoy a chuckle in the hospitality room while preparing for dinner.  (Photo by Sharon Mager)

Highlights of the session included greetings from national partners, including the Red Cross, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), and Lowes. The state directors also approved recommendations clarifying the basic qualifications of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplains and discussed the new DR Operations Manual, which provides a framework for the various entities of the SBDR network to maximize organizational leadership in coordinating disaster responses at both the command and functional levels.

The meeting concluded with a challenge for the network to prioritize mutual aid and support as Disaster Relief is being called upon to respond to more frequent and severe disaster and crisis events locally and nationally.

Next year‘s Winter Roundtable will be in San Antonio, Texas. The convention directors also meet each June following the SBC Annual Meeting.

Ellen Udovich expressed her gratitude to Ogletown Baptist Church for hosting the visitors for the three-day event.

Cover photo: Dave Good (l) and Richard Perrine, both from North Harford Baptist Church, were busy serving during the SBDR Roundtable Awards Dinner but took a moment for a photo. (Photo by Sharon Mager) 

Sharon Mager serves as a communications specialist and editor of BaptistLIFE publications. Ellen Udovich contributed to this article.