Baptists Plan Response to Hurricane Dorian

Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief units asked to ‘stand by’ for now

Baptist Press

Tropical Cyclone Track Forecast Cone and Watches/Warnings and Initial Wind Field — Graphic from

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Hurricane Dorian finally completed its pounding of the Bahamas on Sept. 3. After intensifying to a Category 5 before devastating the islands, Dorian weakened to a Category 3 as it continued its slow trek toward Florida. Early reports describe the damage as historic, and five deaths had been reported in the Bahamas.

Baptist Global Response (BGR) has purview over the Bahamas and will be assisting with disaster relief efforts once the storm passes and damage assessments have been completed. Jeff Palmer, executive director of BGR, said he is in contact with the Bahama Baptist Convention and the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship.

“After the assessments we will know what kind of help we need,” Palmer said. “It might involve medical help, food, water, shelter — you can imagine what the needs might be based on a storm like this.”

According to Palmer, Baptist churches in the Bahamas have a strong network, and BGR will cooperate and work through them.

“They are the ones who will be around to minister in the long term,” Palmer said. “We want to work through them so they will receive the credit.”

The storm’s slow crawl toward the East Coast persists, but most forecasting models indicate that the eye of the storm will not make landfall. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) projects Dorian will turn north and curl back out into the Atlantic. Yet, only a slight shift in the official forecast would bring the center of the storm closer to the coast according to the NHC.

While the eye may not make landfall, if its current projected path holds, the East Coast — from Florida at least through North Carolina — will still feel the damaging effects of the wind, rain and storm surge.

“Life-threatening storm surges and dangerous, hurricane-force winds are expected along portions of the Florida east coast through mid-week, and storm surge and hurricane warnings are in effect,” the NHC posted on its website.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteer teams have been activated. Several out of state SBDR teams, such as Kentucky, Missouri and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, have committed to move toward Florida to assist in the relief effort.

Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief units have been asked to “stand by,” said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. He noted that feeding, chaplain, assessor, incident command, shower, laundry and recovery units were slated to leave on Sept. 4 but, as of now, will not deploy.

“We are grateful to God that the storm seems to be turning on a northerly route and will not impact the Eastern seaboard as hard as they were predicting,” Jones said.

Volunteers are asked to be available should conditions on the ground change, Jones said. “Tennessee DR volunteers continue to stand ready to respond wherever we are called upon to serve,” he noted, adding that some TBDR units are still responding in Granite City, Ill., assisting homeowners in cleaning up after the flood that impacted their area a couple of weeks ago.

Wes Jones

Jones called on Tennessee Baptists to “pray for the people of the Bahamas that God will use this opportunity to show Himself mighty and bring glory to Himself.” He pledged that Tennessee Baptists will stand ready to assist BGR and “the Bahamian people as we are needed.

“As always, we ae grateful to the volunteers around Tennessee for their readiness to respond and the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention that give through the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions which allows us to train and be prepared to respond when people are in need,” he said.

This article includes reporting by Brandon Elrod of the North American Mission Board and B&R editor Lonnie Wilkey.

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