Landslide survivors aided by Baptist volunteers

OSO, Wash. (BP) -- Northwest Baptist Convention disaster relief volunteers are part of the efforts to aid landslide survivors and emergency workers in northwest Washington.

Northwest convention volunteers were activated in late March to provide meals to survivors and emergency workers and to support chaplaincy efforts led by Enio Aguero, North American Mission Board chaplain coordinator for disaster relief.

The landslide left at least 24 people dead and 30 missing.

NAMB Disaster Relief Executive Director Fritz Wilson expressed appreciation for Northwest Baptist volunteers.

"It is great that the Northwest Baptist Convention and the local churches are able to handle this response," Wilson said. "It shows the strength of their commitment and the value of the DR network. We are able to walk alongside them and offer help if they need it."

Wilson pointed to the increasing capability and flexibility robust state conventions bring to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts. In addition to Northwest volunteers in Oso, hundreds of volunteers have been assisting efforts to rebuild the East Coast damaged by Hurricane Sandy. More than 150 volunteers were in New York last week working on eight homes in the Sandy Rebuild initiative, representing 19 churches in the Bradley Baptist Association in Cleveland, Tenn.

Puget Sound Baptist Association disaster relief team members and other SBDR volunteers served their neighbors in the Oso, Arrington and Darrington communities. Additional volunteers are responding as needed, said Oso Chapel pastor Gary Ray, who is helping coordinate local ministry efforts.

"The untold story in this response is the Darrington, Wash., side of the slide," said Northwest SBDR director Gary Floyd. The community east of the slide flooded. All power and communication was cut off by the March 22 mudslide but was restored several days later, Floyd said.

With the mudslide's death toll, Mountain View Baptist Church's ministry of providing funeral dinners will be active in the coming weeks, pastor Michael Duncan said.

The ministry originated some 60 years ago when ladies at the church would host dinners for bereaved families.

"When a logger was killed on the mountain, the wives would host a dinner for the family," Duncan said. "It … grew from there."

The ministry has become a central part of Mountain View's community outreach and has expanded to include anyone who requests a funeral dinner.

"It just continued to expand. Now people value the [dinner] events," Duncan said. "It is a true community gathering to support the grieving family. It allows us to love people when they are suffering."

NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers -- including chaplains -- and 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, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

To donate to SBDR efforts, contact the Southern Baptist convention in your state or visit namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. Donations are also accepted at 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) and at NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for "Disaster Relief."


Joe Conway 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).