CANNONSBURG, Ky. (KT) - Chainsaws, generators and other equipment and supplies were loaded onto four semi-trailer trucks Sept. 11-12 ahead of Hurricane Florence at Southern Baptists’ Appalachian Ministry Center in northeastern Kentucky.
Florence began its onslaught on North and South Carolina Thursday. According to CNN, “By late Thursday afternoon, the Carolina coasts can expect winds topping 80 mph. And that's just the prelude to untold days of misery.” Though the hurricane had weakened to Category 2 with sustained winds topping 100 mph, a devastating storm surge is projected, followed by massive amounts of rainfall for several days on the coast and inland.
Rob Allen, director of the center, said the ministry of the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief arm -- was coming alongside state Baptist conventions in North and South Carolina and Virginia to help with hurricane relief.
“It’s a great thing being part of the big Baptist family,” Allen said. “Everybody knows about the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief effort’s history of responding to these situations and we’re partnering with them.”
Two 24-foot trailers loaded with equipment were bound for the Carolinas and Virginia after being loaded Tuesday and two more 53-foot semis were loaded Wednesday for relief efforts.
More than 10 million people are under hurricane warnings and watches in the Carolinas and Virginia.
Volunteers, many of them who are workers from northeastern Kentucky with the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, were busy both days putting together dozens of “pastor packets,” valued at about $2,000 each, that included chainsaws, generators, fuel, water filters, gloves, goggles, extension cords, work lights and power strips.
“We partner with the state conventions to meet the needs. You meet the needs, build a relationship and change lives through the Gospel,” Allen said.
It’s a blessing, he said, to watch the volunteers prepare aid for those in the path of the hurricane. “We want to help them meet the needs and proclaim Jesus,” he said.
Call to action
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, in a video released Sept. 12, said hurricane relief will be “a real place that we as the body of Christ can serve our community.... We can show that we have a message of love, not just in what Jesus did in dying for our sins, but He came to rescue and save. And we can put that on display."
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., urged Baptists to pray “for those who are going to be affected by this tragedy; pray that God will be merciful, that there will be safety, pray that the rescue crews will have everything they need.”
And Greear urged Baptists to give, stating, “If you go to NAMB.net, right in the middle of the page there's a big thing that says Hurricane Florence, and there's a way that you can give and get involved right there. In addition to that, it has a way that you can go down to your state convention and give through your state convention.”
David Melber, president of Send Relief, stated on Twitter Sept. 12, "The coming days will certainly be long” as Southern Baptists work in conjunction with FEMA and other organizations involved in disaster relief.
The South Carolina convention issued a call to its volunteer DR leaders, saying, “Yellow hat volunteers are asked to make tentative plans to clear your schedule so that you can deploy immediately after the storm.”
Leaders of DR units “are reminded to make sure your unit is stocked and ready to deploy, giving special attention to the condition of the tires if the unit has been parked for a long stretch of time,” the state convention website stated.
The North American Mission Board is coordinating the national Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response, with more than 20 mobile field kitchens on standby with a per day capacity of more than 300,000 meals. Once activated, the kitchens will move from their respective states and be staged until they are assigned to feeding locations as needed.
The value of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief was underscored by Bible teacher Beth Moore in a tweet Sept. 12, saying Baptist relief efforts helped “avoid a good bit of despair last year after Harvey tried to kill Houston” where she lives.
In other news, the offices of the North and South Carolina state conventions were closed today and Friday. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina offices are located in Cary near Raleigh; the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s in Columbia.
Closures also were announced at several colleges with Baptist ties, including Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C.; Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C.; North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C.; Charleston Southern University in Charleston; and Anderson University in Anderson, S.C.
Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this report.