Tornadoes spawn fresh awareness of growth in Disaster Relief ministries

By Staff, Baptist Message

[img_assist|nid=7988|title=Helping Hand|desc=In Henryville, Ind., relief supplies are unloaded at the back of First Baptist Church, which survived a March 2 tornado that tore through town. The church has become a local hub for relief volunteers and supplies.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=424]ALEXANDRIA – Despite a swath of tornadoes across the nation’s midsection the first week of March, Disaster Relief volunteers in Lousiana  have not been called to assist in the clean-up, reports the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s  Disaster Relief Director Gibbie McMillan.

“With the exception of the Henryville area near the Indiana/Illinois state lines, each state had enough trained people on hand to meet the need,” McMillan said.

He tied that back to the national response to Hurricane Katrina, which spurred interest in Disaster Relief ministries in Southern Baptist churches across the nation.

In Louisiana, the number of trained DR volunteers increased significantly in the year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The number of DR units statewide today is 84, up from 18 pre-Katrina.

“The question is,” McMillan said, “When disaster strikes how prepared are you?”

Disaster Relief is an extension of the local church that brings help, healing and hope to individuals – both members and non-members – and communities affected by disaster, according to Louisiana’s DR mission statement.

Louisiana DR demonstrates “the love of Christ by providing physical, emotional and spiritual help to those affected by disaster,” according to the LBC organization’s vision statement. Its core values: Christ-centered, partnership-oriented, fluid in practice, effective in action and local-church focused.

“We can’t do it all, but we can do something,” McMillan said.

The annual Disaster Relief Northern Region Roundtable is set for April 20-21 at Temple Baptist Church in Ruston. All are invited to hear Mickey Caison, the SBC’s national DR coordinator, said the northern region’s DR coordinator, David Abernathy, who also heads Rolling Hills Ministries.

Training also will be offered during the two-day event. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, male or female.

“No special skills are needed,” Abernathy said, “just a love for God and your fellow man, plus a willingness to serve as needed.”

Train as a DR volunteer in Feeding, Chaplain, Operational Stress First Aid (OSFA),    Basic Shelter Support ARC (American Red Cross), Chainsaw/Ropes/Tree Jack, Mudout/Ashout, Shower/Laundry, Purification, or Assessment.