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By Joe Conway
the Northeast are facing similar flood scenarios and the prospect of even more
snow. The polar blast, generated by a pacific storm that curved north into the
Arctic pushing a cold front, brought freezing temperatures and snowfall to
parts of all 48 contiguous states. The New York snow event has also been
responsible for 12 weather-related fatalities.
executive director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) at the North
American Mission Board, expects state SBDR teams to handle most of the flood
recovery and mudout work generated by the storm. The SBDR team at NAMB is
closely monitoring developments.
for flooding is high in the affected areas that have received from five to
seven feet of snow,” said Wilson. “The strength of the Disaster Relief network
and the preparation of state organizations like New York and others give us
optimism that our state partners will be able to respond to possible flooding.”
Wilson said depending on the nature of the event, New York could request
assistance from states in the Northeast, but he does not anticipate that this
event will call for a national response.
The National Weather Service (NWS) had
multiple lake-effect snow warnings in New York, all set to expire Nov. 21. The NWS
issued a flood watch for the most heavily affected areas that will not expire
until Nov. 26. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, snowmelt
typically generates a 10:1 ratio in water accumulation. In the case of the area
around Buffalo, seven feet of melting snow would produce almost a foot of
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their
state or visit https://donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone
donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543,
Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships
with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state Disaster
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained
volunteers—including chaplains—and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw,
mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water
purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three
largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States,
along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.
Date Created: 11/21/2014 12:59:00 PM
By Kristen Camp
ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- Whether
it’s a tornado in Oklahoma, a wildfire in Washington or a hurricane in New
York, disaster survivors need more than assistance with rebuilding their homes
when tragedy strikes. They need help rebuilding their lives. Southern Baptist
Disaster Relief (SBDR) is committed to providing help, healing and hope to
disaster survivors across North America.
Many people are aware of
what SBDR does in response to these types of tragedies, however many people
don’t realize how SBDR works on a deeper level. Kevin Ezell, president of the
North American Mission Board (NAMB), addressed that issue as he hosted a
disaster relief panel discussion Nov. 20 as part
of NAMB’s monthly staff “boot camp” to
give insight into the scope of SBDR.
“Often we are very grateful
for what Disaster Relief provides,” said Ezell. “But that’s on a 30,000 foot
level, and we never really go below that to see how it works.”
The purpose of the panel
discussion was to highlight how local churches, associations,
state conventions and NAMB work together
to execute different SBDR efforts in the United States and Canada. Representatives
from three of these groups participated in the discussion.
The panel included Phillip
Harrington, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Live Oak, Fla., Jack Noble,
Disaster Relief director for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia
(SBCV), and Fritz Wilson, executive director of NAMB disaster relief.
Harrington first participated
in disaster relief efforts in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew struck Florida. His
pastor challenged several church members to respond to the needs of the
hurricane survivors. Harrington took the initiative to continue working with
SBDR by encouraging members of FBC Live Oak to get involved as well.
“Several years ago we had a
training session that we hosted and Fritz led where about 400 people showed up
from around the state, many of them from our own church. They all received
training,” said Harrington, who has pastored at FBC Live Oak for nine years. He
said since that training they have viewed Disaster Relief opportunities around
them as a tool to catapult them into further participation with SBDR.
Noble said that over the
years he has worked with the SBCV to help equip churches in Virginia to train
teams that can respond to disasters.
“We introduce [churches] to
a concept called Ready Church. It helps them engage in their Jerusalem first … and
encourages them to start thinking about how they can minister to the crisis
needs in their community, and then we network them to national and
international events,” said Noble.
While churches and state
conventions concentrate on these local needs, the Disaster Relief team at NAMB coordinates
efforts from a national level.
“NAMB is like an air traffic
controller,” said Wilson. “We don’t fly the planes per se, but we help direct
and make sure everything gets to where it needs to be in order to be strategic
NAMB also works on a
national level with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the
American Red Cross and The Salvation Army to develop working relationships with
these partnering agencies. During the panel discussion, Ezell pointed how Southern Baptists stand
out from these organizations by focusing on something bigger than just
physically helping disaster survivors.
“We have to connect the
‘help’ with the ‘hope’ of Christ, because that is why we are different than
other agencies,” said Ezell.
Keeping this mission in
mind, Harrington explained how disaster relief work opens up opportunities to
share the gospel with the people affected by tragedies.
“As much as we want to help
the lady that has a tree on her house, we also want her to understand that
there is healing beyond just the house,” said Harrington. “One of our
volunteers said the greatest opportunity was not being able to take the limb
off her house, but being able to sit on the porch with the lady afterwards with
tears in her eyes and her ask why we’re doing this, and then being able to tell
her about Christ.”
To wrap up the discussion,
Wilson pointed out how SBDR starts with the financial help from Southern
Baptist churches across the country. Through their giving to the Cooperative
Program, SBDR can fill Disaster Relief positions on the state and national
level, as well as buy the necessary equipment and resources to be able to
respond to disasters.
“The thing that we are
really trying to get across is that for every disaster, SBDR is there every
time just like Red Cross and The Salvation Army and other groups,” said Wilson.
“If [Southern Baptists] can give through Southern Baptist circles, we can do
more for the Lord than anyone in disaster response.”
Learn more about SBDR at www.baptistrelief.org.
Kristen Camp writes for the North American Mission
Date Created: 11/21/2014 11:54:26 AM
By Joni B. Hannigan
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – When the
house lights dim in the newly-renovated historic Hollywood, Fla., theater and
the spotlight trains on pastor Martin Vargas, a message—not a person—will take
center stage. The message: “God knows; He changes lives; there is growth in the
truth; and we are fulfilling the Great Commission.”
Vargas, a native of the
Dominican Republic, appreciates the vision Hollywood Playhouse had for more
than six decades in bringing live theater to its community—but he wants more.
Real Church, or Iglesias Real,
is set to share the gospel in Spanish, English and Portuguese—from one of the largest
stages in South Florida—and will serve as a hub for church plants.
“I wanted to plant a church
that is doctrinally sound and that has authentic Christians,” Vargas said. “If
they speak English, fine. If they speak Spanish, fine.”
Reflecting on the meaning of
the church, Vargas discovered “Real,” which in Spanish forms an acronym for, “know
God, changing lives, growth in the truth and fulfilling the Great Commission.”
When he saw the vintage theater
in 2012—a vandalized building with broken skylights—he wasn’t deterred. Vargas
saw a gift from God.
Just five years earlier, the
theater had undergone a restorative face-lift. A magazine described the
18,000-square-foot facility as a “full-service venue” with recording and dance
studios, a design shop, film-editing suites and a closed sound stage.
In 2004, Vargas left a
lucrative business to start a church in South Florida. Eight years later, with
a passion to move his congregation to where they could have the greatest
impact, he prayed about the $1.5 million price tag for the two-acre theater property
with its 300-seat auditorium.
The timing was not right and
soon the bank, which owned the property, sold it to a Miami man who hoped to
re-vamp the declining theater.
“It was hard to compete with
cash,” Vargas said.
After a two-year search Vargas
led his congregation in a 40 Days of Prayer campaign. On the final day, he got
a call. The bank wanted to meet. The man with the cash had been jailed on
“That Monday was a divine
appointment,” Vargas recalled. “I went to the meeting with my realtor, a member
of my church, with the thought that, ‘I’m just a pastor with no money.’ I said,
‘If this is coming from God, I need to see God’s hand clearly.’”
Vargas could not believe
what he heard at the meeting. The bank would lower the selling price to $1.2
million and pay for the installation of new electrical wiring, 17 brand new air
conditioning units and a new roof. The terms came with a “good faith” agreement
to wait on part of the down payment and close in 90 days.
The only big expense the banker
warned Vargas about was a need to purchase theater seats. At that point, Vargas
started smiling. A local synagogue had offered him 300 seats they no longer
needed—just in case.
“The banker asked me if I
believed in fate. I said, ‘No sir, I believe in God,’” Vargas remembers telling
him. “Only God could do that.”
“I left the building that
day with the confidence that the Lord was giving this property to us,” Vargas
With just three months to
raise a quarter of a million dollars, Vargas, and his son, Homer, who will lead
the English-speaking congregation at Real, started a Nehemiah fundraising
campaign. Sacrificial pledges and commitments poured in—some from believers from
as far away as Bolivia and Nicaragua.
The bank called and moved
the closing date up to June 26. They told Vargas to bring whatever he had in
his hands. He still needed about $70K.
A local restaurant owner
gave a large donation. A church member drove by and handed him a check. A BBQ
yielded several thousand dollars. Meanwhile renovations began, with members
providing skilled labor to return the theater to its former luster.
Send North America: Miami city
missionary Alex Comesañas offered to help. He organized a mission team from
the Suwanee Baptist Association in the Florida Panhandle to assist through the
North American Mission Board’s Send North America strategy.
The Suwanee team was “so
impressed,” Comesañsas said, they gave Vargas a check for $6,000 on the
It was the final amount needed
to complete the down payment. Construction should be complete by the end of
2014 and the church plans to start meeting in the theater in early 2015.
“This has been a journey of
faith and miracles,” Vargas said. “When you don’t have a problem, you don’t see
miracles. In every situation, we find difficulties and possibilities. God will
find a way.”
Learn more about Send North
America: Miami and how you can become involved at namb.net/Miami.
Joni B. Hannigan, a freelance writer based in
Houston, writes for the North American Mission Board.
Date Created: 11/20/2014 6:09:43 PM
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