By Brandon Elrod
ALPHARETTA—The flood waters have yet to recede completely in parts of Texas, and Hurricane Irma is churning, labelled by media outlets as one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded.
President Trump has declared states of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Irma first made landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean and continues to threaten the other nations in the Caribbean as well as South Florida. The path could change, but models currently have the storm hitting Puerto Rico on Wednesday evening, Haiti and the Dominican Republic Thursday evening then making landfall in Cuba on Friday evening and travelling across the country all day Saturday.
If Hurricane Irma makes landfall in the United States, it will likely do so in South Florida near Miami on Sunday afternoon or evening. It is still too early to tell precisely when and where the storm will strike. The Miami-Dade area and several South Florida counties have started setting up shelters and planning evacuations.
One of the biggest fears in Puerto Rico is the loss of power. If Irma knocks out the island’s power, officials expect that it would take weeks or months to restore, which would make it extremely difficult for recovery efforts on the island.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló said through CNN affiliate WAPA, “The magnitude of this storm…has never been seen before in Puerto Rico.”
As Hurricane Irma continues its lethal trek across the Caribbean, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders have their eyes on the storm. With a second major disaster in under a month threatening to wreak havoc, SBDR will certainly be pushed to its limits.
David Melber, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) vice president of Send Relief, stated that “Everyone is stretched thin in this, but this is causing us to come together and function at a much higher level due to the magnitude of what happened in Texas and what is looming in the Caribbean.”
A NAMB team member is currently representing SBDR at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Response Coordination Center in Washington DC working alongside FEMA, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army as they map out the impending needs.
NAMB also has a representative at the Florida Baptist Convention to help plan a response should Irma impact Florida. NAMB will continue to work alongside state leaders as Southern Baptists cooperate to send disaster relief resources where they are needed most.
In Puerto Rico, NAMB will coordinate with Baptist Global Response to find ways to serve the other nations that will be affected in the Caribbean.
Melber emphasized the need for prayer, volunteers and donations. He recommended sending financial donations if at all possible because the funds can enable SBDR to meet the immediate needs in the field.
Donations made to NAMB will go directly to those in need, but Melber also encouraged people to donate funds through their state conventions as well.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support that has been shown throughout our Southern Baptist churches, state convention partners and for all of those who have been rallying around those in need,” Melber said.
Donate to NAMB’s relief fund and sign up to volunteer at namb.net/sendhope.
You can also visit your state convention’s website to donate to their relief efforts and find ways that you can volunteer with SBDR.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.