By Joe Conway
BLACK FOREST, Colo. – Dave Fulbright’s first job as a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief assessor was a tough one. Fulbright and his team were among the first volunteers allowed to accompany homeowners returning to survey wildfire damage near Colorado Springs. They began their ministry Friday morning.
“It has been extremely difficult,” said Fulbright. “Everything we have seen has been total destruction.” Fulbright and his team include a second assessor and a chaplain. By Sunday afternoon they had completed 11 property assessments with homeowners. All 11 sites were total losses.
“We accompanied an older, single woman who worked from her home. Everything she had — her possessions, her business — everything was gone. I told her we will be with her every step of the way, from today, through the clean-up and the rebuild. I assured her that God cares and we care,” said Fulbright.
Black Forest, Colo., near the United States Air Force Academy, suffered the loss of more than 400 homes from early June wildfires. In all more than 500 structures were lost to the fires, which claimed two lives.
“We were able to pray with every family we accompanied,” said Fulbright. “They all said yes when asked and told us they need our prayers.” Fulbright, a member of The Vine Church in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is serving on his first SBDR deployment. He arrived with other volunteers from California on Thursday.
Among the 11 families Fulbright’s team accompanied were two who are members of First Baptist Church, Black Forest, the host church for SBDR volunteers and command center for the response. The difference in demeanor and attitude was obvious to Fulbright.
“Two of the men we went back with are deacons at Black Forest,” said Fulbright. “They told us that God had blessed them and they were thankful that their families escaped the fires. Yes there was anger. Yes there was frustration, but there was a peace and an overall sense of joy. It is rewarding to be able to help all of these families, even in small ways, and assure them that there is hope in God, and that we will be here to help them.”
FBC Black Forest executive pastor John Wells said hosting volunteers have blessed the church.
“Everything has been going great,” said Wells. “God has shown Himself faithful in allowing us to host this team. Our people have stepped up.” While the church campus was spared, many members suffered loss in the fires, Wells said.
“We have 20-plus families who lost their homes,” said Wells who recounted the story of one member, the father of five, who’s home was destroyed. “He said he thought they had lost everything, but when they came to worship Sunday, surrounded by the love of his church family, he realized he had not lost anything.”
Other than Colorado and California, SDBR volunteers have also responded from the Northwest Baptist Convention and Oklahoma. Additional volunteers are expected from more than a half dozen other Baptist conventions in the coming weeks.
In Canada the North American Mission Board will be assisting the Canadian National Baptist Convention in flood relief efforts in Calgary and other parts of Alberta. Record rainfall coupled with snowmelt caused the evacuation of more than 100,000 residents in Calgary and southern Alberta last week.
“We experienced the worst flooding in recent memory,” said Canada disaster relief director Peter Blackaby. “Yesterday the water finally began to recede. Officials have not allowed anyone back in yet, but we will be ready to serve as soon as we can.”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
Southern Baptists have 82,000 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.
To donate to SBDR efforts, contact the Baptist convention in your state or visit namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published June 24, 2013