SBDR leaders honor key volunteers

By Brandon Elrod

KANSAS CITY (BP) – Toward the beginning of every year, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders from across North America gather to assess the previous year, discuss ways to enhance their effectiveness and recognize exemplary service. The majority of the 2019 annual meeting took place at Blue Valley Baptist Church in Overland Park, Kan.

One of the highlights of the annual meeting is the presentation of awards to notable volunteers and staff, and on January 23, SBDR leaders and volunteers gathered to honor those who exhibited great selflessness and determination in the aftermath of disaster. Around 150 people attended, representing 42 state convention teams and North American Mission Board (NAMB) staff.

On January 23, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders and volunteers gathered for an awards banquet in Kansas City to recognize notable volunteers and staff. Award recipients from left to right: Ed and Loretta Greene, Ernie Zabala, Eddie Blackmon, Gary Floyd, Mark Gauthier, Ron Earley, Win and Carolyn Williams, Gaylon Moss, Russel Hohmann, Lynda Porter, Icel “Dean” Kiser and Cheryl Wood. Photo by Brandon Elrod.

“Last year, 2018, was another banner year for disaster relief across the United States,” said Sam Porter, the national director for SBDR through NAMB. “Whether it was hurricanes, floods, tornados or fires, Southern Baptists spent a lot of time in response mode, and our volunteers deserve all the credit in the world for the sacrifices they make to send help and the hope of gospel.”

Recipients were chosen after their respective state directors nominated them for the award, and the SBDR steering committee, which is made up of state disaster relief directors from across the United States, votes to determine the award winners.

The Robert E. Dixon Award is given based on a lifetime of service that helped shape the course of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. The namesake of the award founded what would become SBDR in 1967 when he fed people from his vehicle after Hurricane Beulah hit the Texas Gulf Coast.

Win Williams of First Baptist Church of Brighton, Mich., received a Robert E. Dixon Award. Williams recently retired as the disaster relief director for Michigan Baptists.

Don Gann, pastor of First Baptist of Oxford, Miss., also received a Robert E. Dixon Award. Gann previously served as the state director of disaster relief for Mississippi Baptists before transitioning to the pastorate.

Gann was unable to attend the meeting in person, but Shane McGivney, who followed Gann as state director, accepted the award on his behalf. McGivney will present the award to Gann during a service at Gann’s church in February.

SBDR leaders also presented a second award, the Joel W. Phillips Outstanding Achievement Award. Given for a series of services and performances, three recipients were recognized during the banquet: Eddie Blackmon, disaster response coordinator for NAMB and member of First Baptist Panama City, Fla.; Ernie Zabala of McKenzie Road Baptist Church in Olympia, Wash.; and Icel “Dean” Kiser of First Southern Baptist Church of Arcadia, Okla.

Six disaster relief volunteers also received Distinguished Service Awards for their exceptional service in 2018: Ed and Loretta Greene of Sagebrush Church in Rio Rancho, N.M.; Lynda Porter of First Baptist Church Provo, Utah; Cheryl Wood of North Metro Church in Thornton, Colo.; Tamara Parry of Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Mo.; Charles Castle of First Baptist Church of Paintsville, Ky.; and Ron Earley who serves through the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.

During an awards banquet held on January 23 in Kansas City, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders and volunteers gave a standing ovation to awards recipients who were honored for their distinguished service. Photo by Brandon Elrod.

Coy Webb, state disaster relief director for Kentucky Baptists, also received an award for his service on the national SBDR steering committee.

The SBDR directors also chose to honor four support staff—Cathy Miller, Judy Cape, Beth Bootz and Cindy Henderson—who provide vital administrative and communications services for SBDR through Send Relief, NAMB’s compassion ministry arm.

In 2018, Southern Baptists provided nearly 2.3 million meals, helped more than 7,300 homeowners and witnessed 562 professions of faith in the aftermath of disaster.

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.
MASHALLTOWN, Iowa (BP) — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams have begun cleanup work in Marshalltown, Iowa, following a devastating tornado July 19.

A Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief team arrived Tuesday to set up incident command at Iglesia Karios in Marshalltown. Chainsaw teams from Iowa have dispersed throughout the city to clear debris. An SBDR feeding team has prepared meals for recovery workers in the area.

Additional SBDR volunteers from Kansas-Nebraska and Florida already are on the ground in Marshalltown. Carlson, co-director of Iowa Baptist Disaster Relief, expects volunteers from other nearby states to arrive later this week and early next week. Teams from other states interested in providing assistance should contact their state disaster relief director.

“It looks like a war zone to tell you the truth,” Carlson said. “When you go downtown, you’ll see a lot of glass and brick everywhere.

“On the east part of town, there are about 10 blocks that are very heavily hit. There’s really not many trees standing. A lot of those homes aren’t livable,” Carlson said.

The EF-3 tornado injured at least 235 people in the town of 27,000 located 50 miles northeast of Des Moines. Carlson estimates that at least 100 homes were destroyed. Many more homes will take substantial work before people can return to live in them. Carlson believes it will take months, if not years, for Marshalltown to rebuild.

Some of the worst damage in Marshalltown came to the town’s courthouse and the brick buildings in the town square. In recent years officials and property owners had slowly worked to revamp the buildings, many of which are now destroyed. Jenny Etter, executive director of the Marshalltown Central Business District, estimates that the city had spent $50 million in building renovations since 2002.

A dozen or more tornadoes hit central Iowa last Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The two biggest tornadoes, both rated EF-3, hit Marshalltown and Pella, with peak winds of 144 mph.

SBDR chaplains are also in Marshalltown to provide support and counsel to residents impacted by the tornado. Sam Porter, the North American Mission Board’s executive director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, prays the SBDR response will provide volunteers opportunities to share the Gospel.

“[The] number one goal with disaster relief is to earn the right to share the Gospel,” Porter said. “We work with those impacted. We treat them with respect. We pray with them. When they ask the question, ‘What makes you do this for no charge?’ that’s when you’ve earned the right to share the Gospel.”

The Marshalltown tornado comes on the heels of the SBDR response to flooding in Des Moines, Iowa, where teams wrapped up work last week. Eight people came to faith last week during SBDR efforts in the capital city, Carlson said.

Porter and Carlson urge Southern Baptists to pray for Marshalltown and the rest of Central Iowa.

“Pray for all the people who live here,” Carlson said. “A lot of them lost their homes. They lost their cars. They lost their job. There is a lot of a need here.”

Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.,

Published February 7, 2019