Florence & Michael Update

DOMs, Team Leaders and Secretaries,

First let me just say thank you to all of you who have been serving through Florence and now into Michael.  You have done a tremendous job and continue to do so.  May God bless you with the strength you need to continue going and serving.

The combined devastation of these two hurricanes, Florence and Michael, rival if not exceed, any storm to hit the United States –  maybe not in the total number of people directly affected, but by the sheer scope and amount of devastation.  We watched as Florence dumped inches upon inches of rain on North Carolina and it made its way into South Carolina leaving tremendous flooding in its path, taking weeks for some people to even get back into their home areas to see the damage.  Then along came Michael and we saw the utter devastation of the area from Mexico Beach to Panama City.  Some people think that this is the only area that was impacted by Michael but, that is far from the truth.  Severe impact was felt from the panhandle of Florida up through the corner of Alabama and slamming into Georgia as a Cat. 3 when it arrived there.  Twenty-Three (23) counties in Georgia have been declared Federal Disaster Areas as a result.  While all this has been going on, Texas has had three major flooding events and TN in the Soddy Daisy area got hit with flooding.

Mobile kitchens like this one are springing up across the Florida panhandle and in South Georgia, serving first responders and survivors of Hurricane Michael. With government officials predicting weeks or months of power outages, the need for kitchens like this one could last into December. Southern Baptists prepare the majority of hot meals served by the American Red Cross in disaster settings.
-NAMB photo by Sara Brockmann.

On the State Director’s conference call Monday and Wednesday, it has been hard to hear the SD’s from Florida and Georgia share about the devastation in their respective state.  In Florida, the State Director, himself, and one of our key leaders from the Disaster Relief area of NAMB were directly affected by the storm as they both live in Panama City.  Imagine trying to oversee an operation of this size and magnitude while your own personal home has suffered major damage!  Yet, they have both continued to function and serve the other people who are hurting and in need of hope during this time.  As Stuart the State Director from GA put it, “This storm is like a F-3 tornado but, instead of being ½ mile wide and a couple miles long, it is hundreds of miles wide and hundreds of miles long!”  The Florida director shared that from what he is being told, 75% of the people in the county where Panama City is, stayed during the storm.  When you look at the pictures and think that 75% of those residents were still in their homes, they believe the death count will continue to rise.  In North Carolina they have completed some 2,500 jobs and yet there remains some 2,500 left to do.  In Alabama, they have completed some 200 jobs with another 250 left to go.  Georgia is up to about 1,000 requests and Florida will have way more than this as the job requests keep coming in.

Now for my challenge to all the DR Volunteers throughout TN:

  1. Please pray.  Encourage your churches, your circle of friends and others to pray for those thousands upon thousands who have been affected by these disasters, for those who are responding, those who will continue to respond, and what will be your part in assisting those in need.
  2. We need continued volunteers to continue to step up and serve – especially in the areas of Chainsaw, Flood Recovery, Mass Feeding, Chaplaincy and Incident Management.  For those of you who have already notified us of your team’s availability and dates, this does not change anything for you.  We will continue with assigning you locations based on the greatest need at the time of your availability.  We need teams that have not responded in some time to look hard at their schedules to see if you can field a time in the coming few months.  We will be working on scheduling out teams from now until Christmas and beyond, as long as the need remains.
  3. When looking at developing your team, teams MAY take Non-Credentialed volunteers with them.  Non-Credentialed are limited in some of the equipment they can use but there is a lot they can do.  I will attach the guidelines and forms for taking Non-Credentialed Volunteers with your credentialed volunteers.  Please remember that the form must be filled out prior to deployment and if any items show up on the background part of the application, the volunteer will not be allowed to deploy until we have run the background.  Team leaders most also give safety orientation to all non-credentialed volunteers.  Use this response to introduce new people to how we serve through DR.
  4. As we get teams that want to go, we will feed that information through a coordinator at NAMB who will assign teams to areas base on the greatest need.  That means you may be assigned to FL, GA, SC, NC or even TX if the need is greatest.  We hope to have these assignments within a few days of deployment, but things may always change as things change on the ground.  Please be fluid.

One imperative that I must insist on is that ALL TEAMS must use appropriate SAFETY gear and follow safety protocols.  I want you to be safe.  Remember that we all share in the responsibility for our own safety, the safety of those around us and those we are serving.  PLEASE BE SAFE!

If you can schedule a team to respond, please let Elizabeth and I know as soon as you can at eholmes@tnbaptist.org and wjones@tnbaptist.org.

I know many shower and laundry units have given us their availability to respond.  I am sad to say that we have not received many requests for those yet.  I think they can be very valuable and I hope more of those opportunities open up as areas open up.

Once again, I am so grateful for our volunteers.  You truly are living examples of Christ’s love for everyone.

In Christ Serving Together,
Wes Jones

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