Missouri Baptist relief workers respond to Florida, Hurricane Charley disaster
By Bob Baysinger
August 31, 2004
LAKE WALES, Fla. – Two Missouri Baptist disaster relief teams and several individuals have joined in the massive Southern Baptist effort to provide hope and relief to hundreds of Floridians impacted by Hurricane Charley in mid-August.
The Southeast Missouri Disaster Relief Teams’ chainsaw unit, sponsored by the Cane Creek Stoddard Association, began work in the ravaged area on Aug. 23. The Northwest Missouri Chain Saw unit out of First Baptist Church, Savannah, drove 27 hours continuously to begin work in the Lake Wales area on Aug. 25.
The hurricane ripped across 25 counties in Florida on Aug. 13 and 14, killing 25 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless and without food and electricity.
David Edwards, coordinator for the Southeast Missouri team, said the damage in Florida surpassed the damaged caused by the 2003 tornados that destroyed two Missouri towns – Pierce City and Stockton.
“It’s hard to describe the damage in this 10-mile-wide path that the hurricane went through,” Edwards said. “The winds initially blew at 110 miles per hour and continued for an hour at 100 miles an hour from Port Charlotte all the way up to Daytona Beach.”
Edwards was involved in the clean-up efforts in southwest Missouri.
“In this 10-mile corridor, I would say the damage was more severe than what I saw at Pierce City. I would place it more on the level of damage at Stockton. There was more than $800,000 damage to First Baptist Church, Lake Wales, where we are staying.”
The Southeast Missouri team completed six “Priority One” cleanup jobs the first two days in Florida, working jointly with a chain saw unit from Southern Illinois. “Priority One” jobs include trees down in yards or blocking driveways and tree limbs down on houses.
“And they’ve got 68 ‘Priority One’ jobs lined up for us right now,” Edwards added.
Sandy Lenahan, who coordinates the national mobilization center located at the North American Mission Board, told Baptist Press on Aug. 23 that Southern Baptists had prepared more than 350,000 meals during the first 11 days of relief efforts.
“We have more than 1,300 volunteers manning more than 130 units from 23 state Baptist conventions, and more are on the way,” Lenahan said.
Southern Baptists are the third-largest disaster relief agency in the United States behind the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. There are more than 28,000 trained volunteers ready to respond to local, state and national emergencies.
Southern Baptist officials say the Florida response will be long-term.
Donald Wilkerson, pastor of Sandy Baptist Church, Hillsboro, drove 1,000 miles to volunteer in Florida.
“The biggest reason I’m here is that people need help and my truck is big enough to pull our disaster relief trailer,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson made his disaster relief service part of his call to the church in Hillsboro.
“When I accepted the call as pastor, they agreed to give me two or three weeks a year for revivals or disaster relief,” Wilkerson said. “Usually, I use it to volunteer for disasters. Even in the stores when local residents see the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief logo, I’m able to share Christ with them.”
Edwards said Florida people have been very appreciative of the relief efforts.
“We’ve had opportunities to have prayer with them,” Edwards said. “They can’t believe people care enough to drive 1,000 miles to cut up limbs. There was one older, retired gentleman who told me he could not believe there is ‘this much heart left in the world.’”
Members of the Edwards team are: Gail Edwards, Greg and Jean Hunt, Pam Grubbs, John Wright, Bob Stevens and Scott McRoy. A team of at least six was scheduled to leave on Aug. 28 to relieve the first team. The second team consists of Bud Lawson, Paul Hampton, Marilyn Morgan and Danny Broglin.
Workers on the Northwest Missouri team are Gary Hurst, Byron Coats and Wilburn Moran. Darrell Crawford of Community Southern Baptist Church at Fair Grove joined the Northwest team en route to Florida.
Another team from First Baptist Church, Lebanon, departed for Florida Aug. 26.
The Lebanon workers included Melvin and Pauline Bennett, Jack Cook, Jack and Peggy Francisco, James Goforth, Marvin and Sue Griffith, Steve Hite, Steve Laval, Allen Richert, Doug Richardson, Kathy Wade and Perry Wolf.
The Lebanon crew is working in Port Charlotte, Fla. They took several pieces of heavy equipment on flatbed trucks to use in the cleanup effort.
On-site assessments identified 32 Florida Baptist church buildings that have been destroyed or damaged by the hurricane.