Doing cleanup on his first deployment as a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, Ray Parker is part of a feeding unit at Bastrop, Texas, preparing meals for crews battling wildfires as well as families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged. Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said SBDR has "helped thousands of people this year and seen hundreds come to faith in Christ. Now we need the next group of trained volunteers to step up and say, 'I will go.'"
Photo by Bonnie Pritchett
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- More than 2,000 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are engaged in an ongoing response across North America in a dozen states. In addition, volunteers remain involved in relief work in Japan and Haiti. Because of the unprecedented number of disasters this year, SBDR leaders are signaling a need for more trained volunteers and offering ongoing training opportunities.
Training events continue to help bolster the roster of trained DR volunteers, said Mike Morgan, North American Mission Board disaster operations center manager. Twenty state conventions currently are responding to disasters.
NAMB President Kevin Ezell asked Southern Baptists to prayerfully consider filling in the gap.
"We have faced unprecedented heat and wildfires, massive outbreaks of tornadoes, and flooding not seen in more than 100 years in the Northeast," Ezell said. "There are active DR responses ongoing across the nation and there is still the need to go the next mile.
"I know many DR volunteers have already used up their available vacation time to minister. Southern Baptists have always given of themselves sacrificially and I know they will again. We have helped thousands of people this year and seen hundreds come to faith in Christ. Now we need the next group of trained volunteers to step up and say, 'I will go.'"
In Texas an unusual menace is forcing the activation of hundreds of DR volunteers across the state -- wildfires on a scale not seen in living memory.
"As the fire raced through the area, people came to the church. They had nowhere to go, escaping with only what was on their backs," said Raymond Edge, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bastrop.
"One family had just settled down for a nap," Edge recounted. "Their son came running in and said they needed to go now. The mother jumped up, they ran to the car with a wall of fire heading toward them. They drove away as fire reached their home. She did not even have time to put on shoes. They lost everything."
Similar stories were repeated 35 times within the congregation as family after family lost everything to the wildfire. Edge, who serves as a member of NAMB's board of trustees, has pastored the church for 15 years.
"There have been 1,554 homes destroyed in Bastrop County. The home of my chairman of deacons was destroyed," Edge said. "Sunday School leaders, children's leaders, so many strong leaders in our church have had their entire homes destroyed. We ask God's people to pray for us.
"One of my members reminded me of something and I have been telling everyone, 'God reminds us that He will bring beauty out of the ashes.' We believe He will do that here," Edge said. Read More