In the wake of the second wave of historic flooding to hit Louisiana in the past six months, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are being deployed Tuesday, Aug. 23 to help flood-weary families recover from the early August disaster.
The Florida DR teams will stage an Incident Command Operation at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, one of seven centers expected to be established across the state.
“Flooding has devastated much of the state of Louisiana along the I-10 and I-20 corridor and southward,” said Delton Beall, director of Disaster Relief and Recovery Ministries for the Florida Baptist Convention. “As many as 108,000 people in Livingston Parish have been displaced.”
Immediately after the August flood, portions of three Interstate highways–I-10, I-110 and I-12–were closed by floodwaters in Baton Rouge. Much of the campus of Louisiana State University was underwater.
“After responding to the extensive flooding from this past spring, many Louisiana DR volunteers are overwhelmed as they now have to deal with this second even more devastating flood,” Beall said.
Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention has asked Florida Baptists to “pray, give to the Florida Baptist Convention for disaster relief in Louisiana and send volunteers.”
The Florida DR Task Force is now actively calling on teams to respond.
Beall said one of the Convention’s Mobile Command Centers, two shower units and a supply/resource unit are expected to leave Aug. 23 and be operational by Aug. 24. One shower unit will be set up at Christ Community Church in Denham Springs.
Also expected to leave Florida Aug. 23 are volunteers trained in damage assessment, mass feeding, emergency response, logistics, administration and spiritual chaplaincy, as well as temporary child care workers.
Clean-up and recovery teams from local churches and associations will be deployed beginning Wednesday, and moving forward. Volunteers will be moved in and out of the state for the next four weeks, said Beall.
“If we are serious about being right beside our churches we cannot stop at state borders,” Beall said. “Disaster relief is compassion in its work clothes. Disaster relief is about making a difference today and for eternity in the lives of those who suffer.”
According to the Louisiana Baptist Messenger, the flooding destroyed or damaged at least 40,000 homes across 20 Louisiana parishes. An estimated 60 Southern Baptist churches have been destroyed or damaged along with the homes of 20 or more pastors–many without flood insurance. Thousands of families have been displaced.
David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, recounted in the Baptist Message, “… we dealt with historic flooding in March across northern and western parts of our state. Volunteers from across Louisiana, as well as our Baptist brethren from a dozen or more state conventions, responded to the need. All told, volunteers spent 80 days assisting victims during the spring floods — and here we go again.”
Florida Baptists will serve alongside Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Tennessee who came alongside Louisiana Baptists for the immediate crisis and long-term recovery response.
One of the biggest threats to homeowners after a flood is the dangerous mold that starts growing in the home. The Florida volunteers travel with “mud-out” trailers loaded with pressure washers, disinfectant, buckets, shovels and other equipment needed to treat a home after it has been flooded. Mud, silt, damaged belongings and other debris must be removed along with any sheet rock damaged by the flooding. The process could not start until flood waters recede and the drying-out process has begun.
This is the third callout for Florida Baptist volunteers to respond to flooding in another state during the past 12 months. From the end of June until mid-July, more than five dozen volunteers helped families who survived flooding in West Virginia as they sought to come back from floods. In October 2015, FBDR volunteers helped families in South Carolina recover from unprecedented flooding in that state.
Florida Baptist disaster relief is underwritten by funds to the Maguire State Mission Offering, but additional funds are needed to support massive call-outs of volunteers and equipment.
To donate to the Florida Baptist DR relief effort send a check to the Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32207. Designate “Louisiana disaster relief.” To make a donation by credit card, call 800-226-8584, att. Mike Gilley, ext. 3047 or Flor Ramirez, ext. 3100.
By Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention, August 21, 2016
Information from Baptist Press contributed to this article