Southern Baptists Begin Relief Ministries as Hurricane Florence Comes Ashore

As Hurricane Florence came ashore Friday (Sept. 14) in North Carolina, Southern Baptists began relief ministries and made initial assessments of flooded church buildings and homes.

The Category 1 hurricane has left at least four people dead. Florence could dump 40 inches of rain on some areas of North and South Carolina, according to media reports. As of Friday morning, 620,000 people in the Carolinas were without power and 26,000 were in more than 200 emergency shelters.

At least four Southern Baptist churches had their facilities flooded, with rain and storm surges expected to increase flooding over the weekend. Attempting boat rescues, manning unofficial shelters and preparing for a formal Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) campaign were among Baptists’ initial responses.

“A lot of people are on rooftops — that’s what I’ve been told,” New Bern, N.C., pastor Jim Pennington told Baptist Press en route to a flooded region. “I’m going to try to get in to them. I don’t think you can get to them by vehicle, so I’m going to try to get to them with a kayak.”

Pennington said later via text message he and another boater “moved several families and their household goods” out of harm’s way. CNN reported midmorning Friday that more than 200 residents had been rescued from New Bern’s rising waters, with 150 more waiting to be rescued.

Pennington’s pastorate, Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, will be used as a staging site for SBDR in the coming days.

Some Temple members lost their homes to floodwaters, Pennington said. Yet many decided not to evacuate. “We see it as an opportunity for our church to really shine bright in a dark hour,” he said.

More than 3,000 SBDR volunteers are on standby and ready to deploy if needed.

Send Relief, the North American Mission Board’s crisis response arm, has staged two semi-truck loads filled with supplies for SBDR teams from Baptist state conventions. The supplies include Shockwave mold remediation, rolled roofing and pallets of water among other supplies. One truck traveled to Lynchburg, Va., while the other traveled to a warehouse in North Carolina that will allow it to serve North and South Carolina.

These semis are in addition to 65 pastor packs that were sent to the state conventions in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Each pack includes a generator and chainsaw along with items needed to operate those tools safely and efficiently.

During major crisis responses, NAMB works closely with national and local partners, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state emergency management teams and other volunteer organizations like American Red Cross (ARC) and The Salvation Army to coordinate an effective response.

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Source: Baptist Press