By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—Turn on any news station, and it’s easy to see that natural disasters are occurring frequently throughout our nation and the world. Unprecedented tornados destroyed thousands of homes across Alabama and Missouri, and Southern Baptists rushed in to minister to grief stricken families and devastated communities.
But less visible disasters also occurred in the mid-Atlantic and northeast regions in the United States, prompting responses from Maryland/Delaware’s Disaster Relief crews.
So far this year, MD/DE Disaster Relief has deployed volunteers to do chainsaw work, laundry, mass care feeding, chaplaincy and mud-out work in these areas.
In May, the Blue Ridge Recovery Unit, led by Rich Allen, and the Eastern Recovery Unit, led by Kerry Hinton, cleaned up after tornadoes downed trees and destroyed areas in Raleigh and Cary, N.C. Both of these teams were deployed with trained Disaster Relief chaplains.
In June, a laundry unit from Upper Marlboro deployed to Barre, Vt., in response to flooding of Lake Champlain, which was overwhelmed by flash flood thunderstorms.
The unit washed over 400 loads of laundry over two weeks for SBC Disaster Relief recovery workers, people staying in emergency shelters, and community people whose homes were flooded.
Sadly, the flooding destroyed many of the mobile homes in River Run mobile home park, and because of the economic conditions most did not have any flood insurance.
Jennifer Carignan, laundry unit leader for the first week, sent out requests for prayer for the mobile home park residents, realizing the improbability that they will be able to recover their homes.
“If the belly of a trailer gets wet, typically it is not salvageable and this flash flood resulted in three to seven feet of water in many places,” she shared.
As the unit set up the laundry stations, at least a half dozen people stopped and asked desperately when they were accepting laundry—“all stunned we would come so far to do laundry for them,” she said.
Explaining that the displaced residents were feeling quite isolated and abandoned, she added, “The simple act of washing their clothes was a great encouragement to them—such a simple thing, but so powerful.”
Carignan said she believed that the work done by the laundry unit had opened doors to ministry in the Vermont area. Over 50 Bibles were distributed, and more than a dozen individuals heard a clear testimony of the work of the cross.
“In many deployments, laundry is a supportive role, helping other Southern Baptists to do their work.
However, in the Barre deployment, our primary role was to interact with the public,” she said. “Many came with their bags of clothes, often all they had left from the devastation of the flash flood. They were tired and discouraged. The support of the BCM/D allowed ministry to take place, often in the form of a comfortable chair and a listening ear.”
Carignan had the chance to pray with one family, whose 80-year-old mom was in the flash flood and had spent the night in a parking lot. She survived due to the care of a neighbor who rescued her, but her family did not even know of her predicament until the next day.
As she looks back on the disaster relief service, Carignan praises God.
“One special praise is to honor our God for His calling on so many from the greater body of Christ, all across the U.S. To watch His people, from various churches and denominations cooperate and join in prayer and work is a great joy, and something tremendously special,” she expressed. “Thank you for all that each of you have done to send this trailer here. God’s Word and the Gospel have truly been lifted high through your cooperation.”
Such cooperation was highlighted again in June, when the Baltimore Association’s feeding unit assisted the American Red Cross and other local disaster response organizations in a large-scale emergency sheltering drill.
The feeding unit volunteers set up the mobile kitchen and prepared 1,000 hot meals. The Red Cross delivered 700 of these meals to homeless ministries in Baltimore City, and the remainder was fed to drill participants and community volunteers posing as “shelter guests.”
Several of BCM/D’s Disaster Relief chaplains were also on-site assisting the feeding unit volunteers, mingling with guests coming through the “shelter” and giving tours of our Chaplain/Crisis Care trailer. Ham radio operators demonstrated the new radio equipment recently installed on the Chaplain trailer by the communications team.
In its Southern Baptist Disaster Relief 2010 Activity Report, the North American Mission Board reported Disaster Relief efforts provided over 70,000 ministry contacts and over 25,000 Gospel presentations in 2010. Nearly 2,500 people made professions of faith last year alone.
Richard Allen became involved in Disaster Relief ministry because it was a strongly supported ministry at his home church, Faith Church in Knoxville, Md.
“Disaster Relief work for me is mostly ‘seed’ planting. I doubt I will ever see the results of much of our efforts, but God lets us know in special ways He is using us,” he said, noting the “satisfaction” the Holy Spirit gives his heart.
“We get to witness with our presence, our physical work and sharing the Gospel to those who otherwise might never be interested in listening,” he said.
“Disaster Relief provides a powerful door for the Holy Spirit to speak into the lives of people who might not usually think about spiritual things,” agreed Ellen Udovich, BCM/D team strategist for Acts 1:8 missions involvement and missionary for Disaster Relief.
“They are overwhelmed, grief-stricken and have no idea where to turn. Our Disaster Relief volunteers try to go the extra mile to demonstrate the love of God and verbally share the hope they personally have found in Christ.”
Udovich explained that a person can choose to ignore a tract someone hands him or her, “but it’s hard to ignore someone you have never met before voluntarily laboring all day in the hot sun to cut a tree off your roof.”
She added, “When he or she says, ‘Thanks for giving me the privilege of serving you in the name of Christ today,’ that person is going to think about that for a long time.”
AMPLIFY YOUR IMPACT
The BCM/D will host a Disaster Relief Fall Regional Training for new and current volunteers on Oct. 29, 2011, from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Faith Church in Knoxville. The cost is $30 per person, which includes materials, Photo ID, and lunch.Register online at https://bcmd.org/dr-fall-regional-training.
To learn more, contact Udovich at [email protected] or (443) 250-2555.