METAIRIE–As one of the strongest storms to hit the United States mainland, Hurricane Ida has left a path of destruction through Louisiana and Mississippi after winds of 150 mph, flooding and fallen debris, trees and power lines threatened lives across the Southern states.
More than a million were left without power, homes destroyed, and essential services brought to a halt. Officials warn it could be weeks before the power grid will be fully functioning. Recovery will be measured in weeks and months.
Having weathered many catastrophic storms in the past, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief (FLDR) volunteers have relied on their fellow brothers and sister in Christ—Southern Baptist disaster relief teams–to help them through troubled times.
This weekend, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers will return the favor as they head west on I-10, to help the hurting people in the Bayou State survive and recover from the devasting storm.
“In October 2018 Hurricane Michael devastated the Panhandle of Florida and cut a swath north across Georgia and Alabama,” said David Coggins, state director, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief. “Southern Baptist disaster response teams from across the country came to Florida to help us in our time of need.”
“Then last year, Hurricane Sally tore through Pensacola. And again, Southern Baptist DR partners came to help with the recovery,” he continued.
“That’s who we are. When our folks need help, and its beyond our state’s capabilities, they come. And when other state convention’s disaster relief teams are limited, it’s our turn to go help them like they did for us,” Coggins said.
“Our desire is to be right beside those who need help, hope and healing.”
FLDR volunteers will deploy to Metairie, Louisiana—a suburb of New Orleans– to assist with cleanup and recovery from Hurricane Ida. The FLDR command center will be stationed at Metairie Baptist Church.
The first wave of volunteers from across the Sunshine State will travel to Pensacola on Friday, Sept. 3, where they are staying overnight at Hillcrest Baptist Church, before heading on the three-hour drive to New Orleans on Saturday.
The convoy of nearly a dozen vehicles will include the Convention’s mobile mass feeding unit, administration, communications and utility trailers, and mobile shower unit. Among the first group are assessors who will fan out into Metairie and nearby communities on Sunday to determine and prioritize specific needs.
Trained cleanup and recovery volunteers from across the state—some representing individual Florida Baptist churches and others from local associations—will continue to stream across the state lines throughout the weekend. They will bring heavy equipment, including tractors and skid steers, and will begin responding to those in need on Monday, Sept. 6.
Coggins said Florida Baptist vehicles will bear FLDR’s trademark yellow and blue logos and SBC affiliation markings, ensuring secure passage to the affected area.
Although the mass feeding unit is being deployed, at this time meals will be provided for FLDR volunteers. However, Coggins said, should Louisiana Baptists identify a need, Florida volunteers are standing ready to provide mass feeding services for emergency response teams and the community as needed.
“This is a big one. We will need lots of people, but not all at once,” said Sonny Davis of Pensacola who has been a DR volunteer since 2005 and now serves as state clean-up and recovery coordinator. “We are anticipating this to be a lengthy callout so we will need volunteers to go in and out for a week at the time. Consequently, we are asking our volunteers to check their calendars for availability in the weeks ahead.”
He asked volunteers, “Think about it, pray about it, and let me know your response. Each of you is important. It is a team effort for God’s glory.”
Coggins asked Florida Baptists to “pray for safe travels, safety of volunteers and the opportunity we can bring the gospel and the hope of the gospel to this community.”
“We have resources, we have equipment, supplies and trained personnel. But the greatest thing we have is the message of the gospel and the hope and compassion in Christ. This is the most important thing we can take.”
Churches are being asked not to collect supplies to send unless a church or organization specifically requests donated goods. FLDR volunteers do not have capabilities for storage or distribution.
Pray for the survivors as they face these difficult days. Pray for the FLDR volunteers, first responders, utility responders, city, county, and state emergency personnel as they engage and respond.
You can give below to support the disaster relief efforts and provide needed aid.
Credentialed volunteers, please contact your local or regional leadership as to your availability and continue to earnestly pray for the survivors, and all those helping with recovery.
Thank you in advance for your desire to be right beside those who need help, hope and healing!
For more information, visit https://flbaptist.org/dr-current-response/