Southern Baptist relief spurs 'thank you' from Napolitano

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called to thank Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers who have diligently served since Hurricane Isaac hit the southeast Louisiana coast 10 days ago.

Napolitano Thursday (Sept. 6) personally expressed gratitude to North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell.

"She called to say how much she appreciates everything Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are doing and to acknowledge that our efforts are a key part of the response," Ezell said. "The investment Southern Baptists have made in disaster relief over the years has helped us become a key partner in times of crisis. I am grateful for all of our partners who make this happen. We know that many needs will be met and that ultimately many lives will be impacted with the Gospel."

Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, said "without a doubt, disaster relief is one of the things we're really good at and that I'm most proud of," when told of Napolitano's call. "It's unbelievable that seven years to the day both Hurricanes Katrina and now Isaac hit our area. We're still trying to rebuild from Katrina.

"By the grace of God, New Orleans didn't flood this time, but we can identify with the folks in Plaquemines Parish and LaPlace," said Luter, adding that 60 of his church members were going to the New Orleans hard-hit suburb of LaPlace to help on Saturday (Sept. 8). "I look forward to seeing those yellow shirts tomorrow."

SBDR feeding teams have cooked and delivered more than 130,500 meals at field kitchens in Baton Rouge, Kenner, Covington, Houma, Westwego, Belle Chasse and Slidell, La., and in Long Beach and Pascagoula, Miss., since Isaac hit.

Isaac-related outreach has led to at least five professions of faith and nine other faith-related decisions. SBDR has recorded 78 chainsaw, 54 mud-out and 8 roofing jobs; provided almost 2,200 showers and laundry loads for victims and volunteers; provided childcare for 41 children; and made 2,231 ministry contacts and 47 Gospel presentations.

Feeding units deployed to date have come from Louisiana, Texas (Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Texas Baptist Men), Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Southern Baptist feeding kitchens from the six state conventions have the capacity to prepare up to 225,000 meals a day in Louisiana and Mississippi. After SBDR volunteers cook and package the meals, the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army deliver the food to flood victims.

In addition to feeding operations, DR volunteers representing state conventions are deployed in Louisiana, including groups from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas (SBTC and Texas Baptist Men), and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.

Volunteers are busy assessing damages; doing mud-out, chainsaw and other recovery jobs; providing childcare for victims; providing shower and laundry units; chaplaincy and power generation.

A South Carolina DR team is serving at the ARC incident command in Baton Rouge. TBM, led by TBM state disaster relief director Terry Henderson, is staffing NAMB's incident command center at First Baptist Church, Covington, La. A second NAMB incident command center is based at Lake Forest Baptist Church in New Orleans.

In a response to a FEMA request, SBDR is providing childcare facilities and volunteers at FEMA Disaster Aid Application Centers in Belle Chasse, La. (TBM), Chalmette, La. (TBM), Mathews, La., (Missouri DR), Slidell, La. (Mississippi DR), and New Orleans (SBTC).

From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the SBC's 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, including the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB's disaster relief fund here. Donations are also accepted at 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for "Disaster Relief."


Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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