ELLICOTT CITY, Md.—Jesse Florida, co-pastor of Metanoia Church and now serving as disaster communications liaison working alongside Maryland VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active In Disaster), and funded by the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, was stunned when he saw that Ellicott City had flooded once again.
“My wife [Katie] and I were away when we heard about the flood. We saw footage of Main Street, and we were wrecked. This was happening again. We gathered up our things to head home early and get to work,” he said.
Florida worked around the clock after the Ellicott City flood of 2016, when he organized a small army of volunteers who served their community tirelessly. Katie helped, and is helping now, with the organization and taking care of home needs during what Jesse calls “crazy time.”
“Now I have a couple years dealing with it, and it’s fresh on my mind,” says Florida. “The last time I didn’t see some of the opportunities to cooperate that were readily available. In some ways, I was trying to reinvent the wheel. This time I have more connections, I know how to get help to people, and I’m trying to utilize that knowledge to make the quickest impact as possible.”
In addition to helping in Ellicott City, Florida is also working with the volunteers in areas of Baltimore County and Baltimore City that were affected by the Memorial Day flood as well as those in Washington and Frederick Counties, where a flood earlier in May damaged over 2,000 buildings. Because of the breadth of the storm, it is now referred to as “The 2018 Maryland Flood.”
Using a database called “Crisis Cleanup,” Florida and others are quickly able to network with disaster relief (DR) volunteers and agencies all around the region. Jesse explains, “It’s basically a catchall for people affected so their needs can be viewed by vast organizations willing to get in and help.”
He says organizations are cooperating much better together. For example, in some instances, Team Rubicon, an organization of military veterans who deploy emergency response teams, have been doing cleanouts and mold removal, then they flag the houses when they’re done. Southern Baptist DR Teams go in afterward and continue the work.
Florida explains that in his role, in addition to making connections for disaster relief, he’s also called to “be there” as needed—the ministry of presence. For example, he shared, “There was a woman who had basic needs that went beyond the floodwaters that the Red Cross and Southern Baptists couldn’t help, so I met with her and went through the necessary channels to make her aware of resources available to her.”
He also provided encouragement and prayer.
Through his ministry, Florida is seeing God at work, especially in the volunteers. “I’m seeing a wisdom and peace that’s really apparent with the workers,” he says. He’s praying that peace will be shared with those who have lost so much and who are discouraged.
“Right now it’s raw and present, and there’s a huge sense of hopelessness,” he says, “but what I see is an opportunity.”
He shares that God opened his eyes to see the need around him, even in his own neighborhood. Some people wanted relief from the flood damage, but some lacked the basic essentials for day-to-day living.
Florida says, “Don’t wait for a flood to be ‘on mission.’ Look for needs around you. Help where you are.”