Churches braced for Ivan with disaster relief plans in place

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)--Even before Hurricane Ivan savaged the Gulf Coast and tore a trail of destruction through several counties, churches and Baptist associations already had mobilized.

In Alabama, for example, Tommy Puckett, the state Baptist convention’s director of disaster relief, noted, “Our teams and equipment were already in position at the Coffee County Farm Center in New Brockton” as Ivan was beginning its coastal onslaught.

“On Friday, our office –- in partnership with officials of the North American Mission Board -– began mobilizing resources throughout the areas of most severe damage,” Puckett said.

Currently, the disaster relief effort in Alabama includes approximately 150 Alabama Baptist volunteers and 300-400 volunteers from other Baptist state conventions across the country. Another 600 or more volunteers, meanwhile, are at work in Pensacola, Fla., and elsewhere in the Florida Panhandle in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief operations.

The number of volunteers is increasing, said Donald Kimbell, operations officer for incident command with the North American Mission Board.

Kimbell, who is coordinating a command center housed in the basement of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions building in Montgomery, Ala., noted “several of us were on the job here, even before Ivan achieved landfall.”

“We were here throughout the night as the hurricane came inland and began immediately assessing damage and planning for the deployment of personnel and resources,” said Kimbell, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Ruston, La.

The command center will likely stay in place through some time in October, Kimbell stated, as efforts to help storm victims continue throughout south Alabama and Florida.

“The feeding units from Alabama and elsewhere are specialized pieces of equipment that, altogether, are feeding tens of thousands of meals daily to persons in the hardest-hit areas,” said Puckett, who also serves as director of men’s ministries for the Alabama state convention. “These and other pieces of disaster relief equipment are made possible by the support of Baptist churches and associations throughout our state and from other states.”

In addition, a dozen chaplains from across the Southern Baptist Convention are deployed.

“Through the North American Mission Board, we have asked for additional volunteer chaplains and some are already on the way,” said Ray Baker, a chaplain with the Alabama Baptist State Convention. “We are hopeful more will make themselves available as well.”

Baker invited chaplains endorsed by the North American Mission Board’s Chaplains Commission or those trained in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) or by the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) to contact him at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 308, rbaker@alsbom.org.

The Alabama Baptist newsjournal, meanwhile, reported that Alabama's three Baptist colleges eluded Ivan's toughest blows.

Mark Foley, president of the University of Mobile, reported, “The damage is relatively light here in comparison to what the Gulf Shores area experienced." The only loss, he said, was one large oak tree that fell without striking anything.

"We are thankful, but we are definitely in prayer for our neighbors to the east."

At Samford University in Birmingham and Judson College in Marion, the storm was more of an inconvenience than a hard hit.

"We have a fair number of roof leaks and a few trees down, but no major buildings were damaged," Bill Mathews, Samford general counsel and vice president for business affairs, told The Alabama Baptist.

Children, staff and facilities at all eight Alabama Baptist Children's Homes campuses across the state also weathered Ivan without incident, and Shocco Springs Conference Center hosted the children and staff evacuated from the Mobile campus.

"It was a blessing from God that Shocco helped us to get the children and adults out of Mobile so that we could care for the structural safety of the children's homes while experiencing Ivan," said Mobile director Jim Chinners.

Contributions to offset direct costs of the disaster relief response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort, or to the North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to the North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, Ga., 30368-6543.

For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr.


Based on reporting by Keith Hinson & The Alabama Baptist newsjournal.

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