MBC intensifying hurricane relief aid
Missouri Baptists flocking to ‘adopt’ stricken SBC churches along Gulf Coast
By Brian Koonce
October 4, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptists remain on the forefront of disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Seventy-seven churches in Missouri have volunteered to adopt churches on the Gulf Coast through the North American Mission Board’s (NA MB) Adopt-A-Church program. Only North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have more churches aiding congregations in hard hit Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
“We’d like to see 2,000 churches signed up,” said Danny Decker, point man for disaster relief efforts in the state. “We need as many as we can get to help.”
The Adopt-A-Church program matches one or more “stable” churches with churches that have been destroyed, damaged and scattered by recent hurricanes. NAMB reports that there are at least 150 churches in Louisiana that were destroyed or heavily damaged and more than 100 in Mississippi. Hundreds of others sustained more minor damage but still will need help. It is not known yet how many were affected in Texas.
“Every church in Missouri can get involved,” Decker said. He added that even the smallest church in Missouri can partner with others through NAMB to help a shaken church get back on its feet.
“Adopting” a church might involve anything ranging from prayer partnerships and writing letters of encouragement to mission trips to help with construction or to help regain church records. The partnership could last as long as six months to a year, but help is especially needed this fall and next spring.
“These folks stand in need. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. His commandment just before He ascended into heaven was that we love one another. This is an act of love.”
Beyond help reconstructing or repairing a building, Decker – who just returned to Missouri from disaster relief work in Mississippi – said emotional support will be a key in adopting a church.
“When the churches are so devastated and wiped out, and the pastors and leadership don’t know where people are, they feel abandoned or lost. There’s a sense of hopelessness to a degree. Not that they don’t have faith in God, but they could really use someone there to lean on. Having a congregation be there to encourage them and lift them up will contribute greatly to stabilizing that church. Some still don’t know where all their staff members are.”
The yellow shirts worn by Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers have been seemingly ubiquitous amid the continuous coverage of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and Decker said this is another opportunity to show God’s love.
“God isn’t just going to use this to encourage and reestablish them,” he said. “He’s also going to use this to show the world what true Christian relationships are about. We are one of the most giving, most loving and most self-sacrificial nations in the world. If non-Christians can reach out to some of these folks, then surely Christians can be moved to do so.”
The Southern Baptist Convention has some 30,000 trained volunteers and more than 600 mobile units. More than 100 Missouri Baptist volunteers have gone to help along the Gulf Coast and many more will be going in coming months. Several feeding, chain saw and shower units have deployed from Missouri and Missouri Baptist recreation camps and other facilities are being used by the American Red Cross to provide shelter for evacuees.
One Missouri feeding unit is producing about 2,000 meals a day and have served 60,000 since their arrival to the New Orleans area. One chain saw unit has returned home, but will be returning to Louisiana Oct. 9. The shelter at the Charleston Association Camp in Benton had 60 evacuees staying there as of Oct. 2. Another feeding unit continues to serve meals at First Baptist Church, McComb, Miss. The Jefferson Association shower unit continues to provide showers to the volunteers working in McComb.
All totaled, the SBC has more than 6,000 people from 38 states on the ground right now along the Gulf Coast, according to Bob Reccord, NAMB president. “We’ve fed more than five million hot meals, cleaned almost 6,500 major debris sites and provided 33,000 showers to victims and relief workers, so I think we’ve been very effective,” he added.
For more information or to sign up for the Adopt-A-Church program, go to www.namb.net or call Decker’s office at (573) 636-0400 ext. 235.