Dorian relief: Baptists serving Bahamas, North Carolina

By Brandon Elrod

HATTERAS, N.C.—As Hurricane Dorian completed its journey along the East Coast last week, officials in North Carolina hoped they had dodged a direct hit. Then, the storm made landfall in the Outer Banks at 8:35 Friday morning (Sept. 6).

Tom Hale of Apex, N.C. (left) and James Davis of Chapel Hill, N.C. (right) assess Hurricane Dorian damage to Randall Styron’s house on Cedar Island. North Carolina Baptists on Mission are at work in Cedar Island and the town of Atlantic, N.C., in Carteret County after the storm. A Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Operations Center is operational at Atlantic Missionary Baptist Church. The area was impacted with severe flooding and wind damage as Dorian made its exit from the state on September 6. NAMB photo by Sam Porter.

The Outer Banks, made up of a string of islands off the main coast, experienced significant damage to homes and businesses days after Dorian decimated islands in the Bahamas after striking as a Category 5 storm.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) has begun feeding and setting up recovery sites in the Carolinas, and Baptist Global Response (BGR) is currently working with Bahamian Baptists to distribute supplies such as food, water, blankets and hygiene kits as their leaders plan for the long-term recovery effort.

BGR reported stories from survivors that underscored the ongoing severity in the region. There have been 50 confirmed deaths and tens of thousands of displaced residents.

One man, BGR said in a statement, went out to help rescue others only to return and find that his wife had been killed as a result of the storm. A woman rode out the hurricane by clinging to a rock, going days without food before making it to safety.

The search and recovery process has been ongoing in the Bahamas, even a week after the storm made landfall, and the death toll is expected to rise sharply. Volunteer relief teams will only be able to initiate their efforts as first responders declare towns and regions safe.

Some areas, such as Marsh Harbor on Abaco Island, were “completely destroyed,” BGR CEO Jeff Palmer said. “The city and area were so devastated that people have evacuated because there is nothing there for them.”

BGR’s primary focus so far has been working with their ministry partners to meet the needs of evacuees, many of whom fled to Freeport and Nassau. Eventually, volunteers will be able to go and serve in the recovery effort in the Bahamas, but the main need now, Palmer said, is prayer and financial support to provide food and other items locally sourced in the Bahamas so that churches there will be able to continue ministering to their communities.

In North Carolina, SBDR set up a feeding unit over the weekend at the Hatteras Ferry Terminal and prepared 1,980 meals that the American Red Cross then delivered to storm survivors on Hatteras Island and ferried to Ocracoke Island, which is, as usual, only accessible by boat or ferry. On Tuesday (Sept. 10), SBDR will prepare food for delivery for The Salvation Army to deliver  as well.

North Carolina Baptists on Mission are preparing to serve hot meals to survivors of Hurricane Dorian on Oracroke Island. Meals will be prepared at the mass feeding kitchen which has been set up on the parking lot at the ferry landing in Cape Hatteras. Plans call for the meals to be sent by ferry to the island which experienced devastating flooding and wind damage. NAMB photo by Sam Porter.

Jack Frazier, SBDR leader for North Carolina Baptists on Mission, praised volunteers who have been flexible and servant-minded throughout the response. When the government’s emergency management agency called asking for a team to distribute items donated to help storm survivors, volunteers stepped forward and met that need.

“They are spending their vacation and/or free time to do this at the drop of a hat,” Frazier said, calling North Carolina’s volunteers some of the best. “We can’t thank them enough for stepping up to be a servant and the hands and feet of Christ.”

Recovery sites have been set up at Atlantic Missionary Baptist Church in Atlantic, N.C., and at Cape Hatteras Baptist Church on the island in Frisco, N.C. From these sites, SBDR teams will go out into the neighborhood to begin the cleanup and restoration process for homes damaged during the hurricane.

Visit to donate and learn how to volunteer with the Southern Baptist state-side recovery effort. Visit to donate and learn more about BGR’s efforts in the Bahamas.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services. The North American Mission Board provides national coordination and assistance in larger, multi-state responses.

Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.

Published September 10, 2019