Baptist crews on site; Trump calls nation to prayer
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (BP) -- A half-dozen Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) rumbled through the parking lot of Annaville Baptist Church in Corpus Christi.
Both at noon Thursday (Aug. 31) and then again in sweltering temperatures at 4 p.m., the ERVs picked up more than 2,500 meals each time prepared by Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief feeding volunteers for distribution to victims of Hurricane Harvey in communities along the Gulf Coast.
In Washington, President Trump signed a proclamation designating Sunday (Sept. 3) as a National Day of Prayer for people impacted by Harvey's historic onslaught in Texas and Louisiana.
"We invite all Americans to join us as we continue to pray for those who've lost family members and friends and for those who are suffering from this great crisis," Trump said, according to CNN.
"There was no outbreak in crime. There was an outbreak in compassion only," Trump also said. "Real, beautiful, strong compassion." Everyone who has responded to the flooding has "inspired the world," the president added.
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, was among various religious leaders on hand as the president signed the prayer proclamation. Page said he was in Washington on Thursday and Friday "to meet with faith leaders about a variety of issues. Among those issues was the Hurricane Harvey disaster. We were privileged to see the president sign an executive order creating Sunday as a national Day of prayer for the people of Texas and Louisiana."
Among others witnessing the signing were Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas; Jay Strack, president of Student Leadership University; and Johnnie Moore and Tom Clinton, members of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va.
Also, at the White House this afternoon, Trump and First Lady Melania Trump met with Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board which coordinates Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and representatives of the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.
"I am thankful that the Trump administration has prioritized this relief effort and for the values they are placing on the role faith groups can play," Ezell said prior to the meeting. "Southern Baptists have a great opportunity here to meet needs, share the love of Christ and demonstrate our faith in action."
Back in Corpus Christi at Annaville Baptist Church, the hot meals, safely sealed in thermal Cambro containers, were being carried to Freeport, Rockport, Woodsboro, Aransas Pass and Gregory, said Joe Vich, a Red Cross kitchen manager from Waterloo, Iowa. Leftovers were taken to a nearby nonprofit ministry.
Vich had worked with SBTC DR volunteers in the past in Louisiana. "They are a fabulous group, very well organized. They know what they are doing," he said. "This group has been, over the top, a pleasure to work with."
Vic Hencken, representing the Red Cross senior vice president of disaster relief, said, "I can't say enough about the Southern Baptists, about what they do and how they do it."
Ray Schwertner, one of the on-site SBTC DR leaders, or "blue hats," praised his team of 17 volunteers from across the state, including two feeding units from First Baptist Church in Brownsville.
"We're glad to be out here working with our brothers and sisters serving the people of the Gulf," Schwertner, of Rockwall, said. "It's hot out here, but everybody's got a great spirit. We're glad to represent God in the Corpus area."
DR volunteers plan to be in the area awhile. "We expect a three- to four-week deployment," said Terry Roberts, SBTC volunteer from Brownsville. "People will be phased in and out over that time. It's open-ended."
SBDR teams from Oklahoma, Arkansas and South Carolina had arrived on the scene to serve alongside Texas volunteers throughout the flooded region.
At Annaville Baptist, an SBTC DR team from First Baptist Church in Linden, Texas, also was on site with a shower and laundry trailer in support of feeding volunteers and other first responders.
The church is hosting SBTC volunteers and making its parking lot and family life center available to both Red Cross and SBTC DR personnel, providing meals to volunteers.
Annaville members erected temporary quarters for male and female SBTC volunteers, the particleboard partitions forming a makeshift dormitory in the midst of the fellowship hall.
"We're more than happy to help," Annaville pastor Robert Simmons told the Southern Baptist TEXAN, adding that the church's chainsaw teams were at work in surrounding areas to help survivors.
"We want to do anything we can to bring the light of Jesus into the darkness and into this mess. And it is a mess!" Simmons said.
SBTC feeding units also deployed to the Houston area at Clay Road Baptist Church and First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, SBTC task force member Dewey Watson confirmed.
Crews heading to Houston were stalled for two days due to flooding, until the Texas Department of Transportation mapped a route for them, Watson said.
Calling the weather in northwest Houston "hot but drying," blue hat Ralph Britt said 22 SBTC volunteers had gathered at Clay Road Baptist Church "ready to cook" but were waiting on supplies and equipment from the Red Cross, with expectations to begin preparing meals today). Another feeding team from First Baptist Pflugerville led by Mike Northen also anticipated starting meal preparations today at Clay Road Baptist.
Northen alerted the Red Cross of damage in nearby Smithville and La Grange, both flooded by the Colorado River. He said the Pflugerville team he leads likely will be providing meals for shelters and possibly for survivors in the two town, each with a population of about 4,000.
"The overall disaster is ten or a hundred times worse than anything we've ever seen," Northen said.
Watson expressed thanks to all volunteers, noting, "They are willing to step out of their lives to give a portion of their time to people they don't even know."
Donations for disaster relief efforts can be sent to the SBTC at http://sbtexas.com/harvey and to other state Baptist convention offices or by visiting namb.net/Harvey.
Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Bapist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.
Church is 'shelter of last resort' amid few resources
By Jane Rodgers
KOUNTZE, Texas (BP) -- At the outset of Hurricane Harvey, Daniel White assisted in deploying DR units across the state as a member of the Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief task force. But when Harvey moved east from Houston, flooding Beaumont and surrounding communities, including his own, White tackled the challenge that confronted the church where he is pastor, First Baptist in Kountze.
"My church became a 'shelter of last resort' for evacuees who were rescued by boats," White said. "We began preparing meals for the evacuees and now we are preparing meals for city and county workers, first responders and the nursing home."
White said SBTC DR volunteers prepared 425 meals on Aug. 31 in Kountze, provided 30 showers, did 14 loads of laundry and prayed with 27 people.
Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN that an operations center had been located at First Baptist with White at the helm.
"When flooding affected the town, we had to relieve Daniel of his command so he could minister to his church, his family and the community," Stice said.
"We are preparing breakfast and supper for first responders," White's wife D'Ann reported, along with breakfast, lunch and dinner for hurricane evacuees and community members, including residents of a local nursing home who could not be evacuated and were running out of food.
"Power is becoming an issue," D'Ann White said, with Stice adding that that city of 2,000 people also is suffering water and sewage system issues.
"All resources are limited," D'Ann White said. The county was unable to transport evacuees as of Aug. 31. While some found places to go, First Baptist Kountze lodged 22 people, 14 dogs and three cats.
Late last night, the 22 evacuees were joined by a Fort Hood soldier, his wife and three children, including a newborn, who were trying to get home to Florida, Daniel White said.
Further evacuations from First Baptist may be stalled, as a shelter in nearby Jasper is no longer an option because a power transmission line went down, leaving Jasper and Newton counties are without power.
"We appreciate Daniel, the volunteers, and the church who responded very quickly to minister to the needs in Kountze," Stice said. "The flooding hit them very quickly."
With White and First Baptist Kountze otherwise occupied, the SBTC DR command center moved to Grapevine, Stice said, calling the operation a "communication and administration nerve center" of DR response.