Hurricane Irma response begins; Harvey response continues


FLORIDA—Mark MacDonald walked around his Jacksonville home Monday morning, assessing the damage done by Hurricane Irma.

“Our roof is leaking and a few trees are down,” MacDonald said. “I was curious as to how our neighbors were doing, so I snooped and went over there. Their garden was completely torn to shreds. It’s not ideal, but it really could have been worse for us. We’re all thankful to God for that.”

Monday, September 11, MacDonald will be working on his own home and aiding his neighbors. But as the sun rises Tuesday, MacDonald will lead teams of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers and trained experts in mudding out, feeding units and more.

“I am the strategic communications catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention,” said MacDonald. “I’m overseeing all our communications strategy for Hurricane Irma. Just like the early response in Harvey, we’ve anticipated Hurricane Irma and the response she’d require ahead of time. I’ve met with our disaster relief teams over the weeks. We are ready to provide 500,000 meals a day in the southern parts of Florida. Feeding is the first thing we will be doing Tuesday.”

Preparations are being made by the Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Jersey, New York and Virginia Baptist Conventions to respond to the needs of hurricane survivors as Irma continues to crawl up the coast.

Counties in northern Florida as well in South Georgia were prepared for the worst. MacDonald was grateful that many reports they’ve received from Southern Baptist pastors hosting hurricane survivors came back better than expected.

“We’ve had some pastors call to say they need hot meals and laundry units,” MacDonald said. “Others who are hosting in the southern-most parts of the state have asked for cleaning crews and volunteers to help repair homes and clear roads and yards.”

According to the National Weather Service, residents of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas will continue to see tropical storm-like conditions Monday and Tuesday with flash flood warnings for counties along those states’ east and west coasts.

“Tuesday, we expect our Southern Baptist volunteers will be able to get in to the southern parts of Florida to respond to needs and have gospel conversations,” said MacDonald. “The rain stopped Monday. Our work can finally begin.”

David Melber, North American Mission Board (NAMB) vice president of Send Relief, has been working with NAMB’s Disaster Relief partners, SBDR directors in serveral states, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and more to map out unique response plans for hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“Every hurricane is a challenge, and none of them are alike,” Melber said. “That means every response is different. Harvey stayed in one place for days and dropped 52 inches of rain. This slowed down every organization’s ability to respond, but now we are in full response mode.”

As of Monday, September 11, Hurricane Harvey SBDR response has witnessed 29 professions of faith, initiated 508 gospel conversations and provided 444,765 meals, 7,240 showers, 4,534 loads of laundry and completed 109 construction jobs including 47 roof repairs.

The work is not finished in Texas and has just begun in Florida.

“For both hurricanes, we will need generous partners to help us with the significant expenses related to responding to these events,” said Melber. “Then we need volunteers that will commit to long-term help meeting the needs of the communities impacted in Texas and in Florida. Please continue to pray for the areas that have already been impacted.”

Volunteer for our Hurricane Harvey response or for our Hurricane Irma response. You can also access our Send Relief bulletin for daily disaster relief updates.

Josie Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board. 

Published September 11, 2017