Georgia Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers provide chainsaw and debris removal for a homeowner following Hurricane Michael. NAMB phot by Sara Brockmann.
By Brandon Elrod
(ALPHARETTA, Ga.)—For more than 50 years, Southern Baptists have been providing disaster relief to the United States and its territories after the gravest of tragedies. Whether it is major natural disasters that affect millions or localized events that hit small communities, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers regularly arrive to bring help, healing and hope to those impacted.
On Sunday, November 11, Southern Baptists will celebrate Disaster Relief Appreciation Sunday, an opportunity to recognize and thank SBDR leaders and volunteers.
“I want to give a special ‘thank you’ to all of those who make Southern Baptist Disaster Relief possible,” said Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “To all of our volunteers who give their time so generously and sacrificially, you are amazing people, and we cannot thank you enough.”
A Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team from Georgia provides tear-out for a homeowner after the house suffered flooding as a result of Hurricane Florence. NAMB photo by Laura Sykes.
So far in 2018, SBDR volunteers have prepared 2.1 million meals across the nation. Volunteers have completed more than 1,500 flood-clean up jobs, more than 1,250 tear-out jobs and provided more than 3,650 chainsaw jobs. In total, more than 6,200 homeowners have been helped, and volunteers have recorded nearly 90,000 days of service.
As they provide physical relief, volunteers also engage in providing emotional and spiritual support. SBDR reported seeing 540 professions of faith as they shared the gospel.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers often prepare for and debrief from a long day’s work by sharing devotions with one another. The spiritual focus remains the center of their volunteer work as they bring help, healing and hope following disaster. NAMB photo by Laura Sykes.
Southern Baptists respond to disasters both big and small because numerous churches, associations and state conventions work together to make it happen. During national events, like Hurricanes Florence and Michael, NAMB helps coordinate a multi-state response and work with national partners such as American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and FEMA.
“Southern Baptist Disaster Relief would not happen without the churches, associations and state conventions investing in the task,” Ezell said. “We are honored to get to partner with and support the grassroots efforts of our fellow Southern Baptists.”
Following the historic hurricane season in 2017, President Trump formally recognized SBDR at the White House as one of the “big three” volunteer organizations in disaster relief.
After Hurricanes Florence and Michael this year, SBDR sites have been visited by the President, the Vice President, state governors and members of Congress. Decades of dedicated service from Southern Baptists have culminated in the national recognition of the work provided by thousands of volunteers.
Vice President Mike Pence and former Florida governor Rick Scott spend time with and thank Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers and survivors at Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla., following Hurricane Michael. NAMB photo by Sara Brockmann.
“For years, Southern Baptists have been working in the trenches, never asking for thanks,” said Sam Porter, the national director of disaster relief at NAMB. “After serving in disaster relief for more than 20 years, I’m extremely grateful to see our story told. It is a testimony to the heart and determination of Southern Baptists around the nation, those who give and those who go.”
In the week leading up to Disaster Relief Appreciation Sunday on November 11, NAMB shared stories and photos on social media of a few volunteers who have served in responses this year. Their stories can be found at facebook.com/NAMB.SBC.
Responses to Hurricanes Florence and Michael are ongoing. To learn more, donate to or find ways to volunteer with SBDR, click here.
A ‘thank you’ video from NAMB president Kevin Ezell can be viewed and downloaded here.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.