NASHVILLE (BP) - State Baptist conventions and donors from across the nation have been pivotal to Southern Baptists' Send Relief efforts for survivors of catastrophic Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
Kevin Ezell, speaking to the SBC Executive Committee on Sept. 18, voiced gratitude to state Southern Baptist Disaster Relief partners and to donors beyond the Southern Baptist family who have provided the majority of Send Relief donations to aid in recovery efforts in Florida and Texas.
Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board with its Send Relief arm to respond to natural disasters and to humanitarian issues such as hunger and human trafficking, noted in a report to the Executive Committee that state disaster relief organizations have done "an absolutely incredible job" since the landfall of Harvey in Texas on Aug. 25 followed by Irma in Florida on Sept. 10.
With the magnitude of the destruction, Ezell said, "It's going to be a long-term response in both places and we need help in the months to come.... We have a desperate need for more volunteers in Florida and in Texas."
More than half of Send Relief donations to date have come from other evangelicals and "people who do not know Christ but still have a desire to help people and have learned to trust the name 'Southern Baptist'" in disaster relief, Ezell reported.
"[O]ften people will downplay denominations or say disparaging things -- we're not a perfect family -- but we are very well respected," he said.
During its Sept. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, the Executive Committee bolstered Send Relief by designating that the first $1.25 million of any overage in the SBC’s Cooperative Program Allocation Budget be provided for disaster relief in Florida and Texas, while any Executive Committee overage would be forwarded to the International Mission Board for disaster relief in the hurricane-battered Caribbean. The EC also made provision for other SBC entities to assist with hurricane relief funding.
Ezell, in his report to the EC, spoke of a White House meeting with President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump on Sept. 1, which included Gail McGovern, president of the American Red Cross, and Col. David Hudson, national chief secretary for the Salvation Army USA.
"I was grateful to Gail, the president of the Red Cross, [who] several times mentioned to the president and others that if it were not for Southern Baptists, 'we could not do what we do,'" Ezell said.
In natural disasters, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding units prepare many of the meals distributed by the Red Cross in shelters and by its vehicles in stricken communities. SBDR also deploys mud-out teams and laundry and childcare units as well as chaplaincy volunteers.
Disaster relief officials, Ezell said, are "very grateful and understand the sacrifice of Southern Baptists all over North America."
At NAMB's DR website, he noted, 271 referral visits came from the Obama
Foundation; 5,500 from National Public Radio; 2,200 from the Huffington Post; and 750 from NBC News.
"One hundred percent of the money that is given through Southern Baptists, channeled through Send Relief, goes on the field," Ezell said.
Various costs, for example, are $360,000 for a Send Relief truckload of Shockwave Mold Remover and $90,000 for a truckload of roofing supplies.
"It's an incredible amount of money we need for the resources to take care of those on the ground," Ezell said. To date, NAMB has sent a little more than $1.5 million to relief efforts in Florida and Texas.
To those who ask how a disaster response is sustained if Send Relief donations go directly to aid storm survivors, Ezell noted, "We're supported by the Southern Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program, and because of that, we're able to take care of those infrastructure costs." The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists' support channel for state, national and international missions and ministry.
Ezell said several Send Relief commercials have been produced for broadcast media and for churches from the North American Mission Board's regular budget.
One commercial's narration states: "When the storms hit, when homes are broken, when everything familiar is washed away, all is not lost. We are here today, tomorrow and until the work is done. We are Send Relief. One hundred percent of your gifts will help the homes, families and lives caught in the disaster's path. Go to SendRelief.net to give or volunteer."
"We're not compromising anything," Ezell said. "Our whole purpose is to help people, with the purpose of sharing the hope of Christ. It's one thing to help, but we must share the hope."
And for non-Christians who may volunteer for Southern Baptist disaster relief work, he added, "It's a great way for us to even evangelize people."
To date, nearly 400 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units from multiple states have been deployed in various capacities, preparing nearly 1.9 million meals; tackling nearly 2,000 chainsaw, mud-out, debris removal and mold remediation assignments; engaging in 1,300 Gospel conversations; and witnessing 225 professions of faith.