Colo. wildfires draw multi-state Baptist DR response
LA VETA, Colorado (BP) -- Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from as far east as Kentucky are headed west to Colorado to help bring hope and healing to communities ravaged by fires that have consumed tens of thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes.
The Colorado SBDR team was providing more than 300 meals a day to first responders, waking up as early as 3 a.m. to prepare meals and working in shifts until as late as 1 a.m. the next day to provide food.
At one point, Dennis Belz, disaster relief director for the Colorado Baptist General Convention (CBGC), and his team nearly had to evacuate when the fires surrounding them came as close as a mile to their location.
The Spring Creek fire has consumed 108,000 acres and over 140 homes at last report.
SBDR teams from Oklahoma came to help with feeding, and teams from Wyoming came to help Colorado teams with ash-out and debris removal. Kentucky Today reported Tuesday (July 17) that chainsaw, fire recovery, heavy equipment, assessment and chaplain teams from Kentucky would leave Saturday for Colorado (July 21).
The North American Mission Board's Send Relief Ministry Center in Appalachia was able to help Kentucky SBDR teams with supplies for the journey to Colorado, providing meals and personal protection gear among other items.
"I appreciate the help that has been sent, the many calls that I've received from our different states that said, 'We're praying for you guys.' The Lord is blessing us," Belz said.
Every night, as Belz's team would debrief, they would gather together to pray for the needs -- whether it was equipment, materials or finances -- and they would wake up the next morning to answered prayers.
Some of those needs have been met by locals in the community. The people of La Veta have shown their appreciation by providing space to house volunteers and opening space to house SBDR operations. Locals came to ask volunteers what they needed then met the need.
As SBDR volunteers have served 4,800 hours and served over 3,280 meals, they have seen one profession of faith and believe several others are close to responding to the Gospel.
"The three days I was there, it was like answered prayer every time you turned around," said Sam Porter, Send Relief's national director for disaster response. "[The community of La Veta] has never had a group like SBDR come in there. I think the churches and Southern Baptists are going to do well there because of this response."
Monsoon season has hit Colorado, and the National Weather Service forecasted 30 to 50 percent chances of thunderstorms throughout the weekend, leaving burned areas vulnerable to flash flooding.
Belz mentioned that flooding and mudslides can cause problems for his volunteers by blocking roads. He expects the disaster response to continue for another month and a half, with assistance in paying for heavy equipment rentals and gasoline being their greatest need.
The front page of the CBGC website, saturatecolorado.com, contains links to donate financially as well as instructions for mailing checks to aid in the fire response effort.