DULUTH — Georgia Baptist associations fortunate enough to not experience the destruction of Hurricane Michael will be crucial in the ongoing rebuilding efforts of the southwestern part of the state.
The plan, explained Georgia Disaster Relief Director Stuart Lang, would be for those non-affected associations to adopt affected areas. Lang shared the news in an email to all Georgia Baptist Mission Board staff on Tuesday.
“David [Self, Washington Association] and Dave [Nelson, Central/Kimball joint program] will be running with this project,” Lang said. An email to all associational missions strategists on the plan went out the same day.
Lang explained the initiative will “run parallel” with Disaster Relief efforts. That means Disaster Relief teams, including those from other states, will share job requests with church teams. In addition, those church teams …
- may stage with Disaster Relief teams for housing and meals.
- will be responsible for their own equipment and supervision since they won’t be working directly with DR teams.
- are responsible for vetting their own participants.
Associations can organize church teams wanting to help in cleanup. It appears participating Baptist Collegiate Ministries will also be doing so through the associations, he added.
Michael worst storm in 20+ years
Over his more than 20 years in Disaster Relief work, Lang says Michael’s destruction may be the most extensive he’s seen.
“I believe it’s the worst storm to hit Georgia in [that time]. My feeding coordinator (25 years of DR experience) agrees with that statement.”
That’s important to note, he says, in order for media coverage to not give a limited view of the affected area.
“Much of the coverage has been rightfully focused on Mexico Beach, Fla. [But] please be aware that some 23 counties in southwest Georgia were severely affected by Hurricane Michael, which maintained hurricane force winds as far as Cordele.”
Active weather season calls for more strong backs
Lang notes that events such as tornadoes in the Northeast and Hurricane Florence have gassed Disaster Relief personnel.
“My teams spent five weeks in Connecticut and over a month in South Carolina. Michael thrust us into another response mode with no respite. The result is a tired volunteer work force.” The South Carolina team, he added, is on its way back today (Friday).
“By no means does that mean the work is done there,” he said, “but southwest Georgia got slammed. We’ve heard it described as looking like a bomb went off or what you would see after a tornado, except stretching as wide as a hurricane. Lang counted Disaster Relief teams from Illinois, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, Baptist General Association of Virginia, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention among those who have responded.
Still, the amount of work is daunting. The Mississippi, Kentucky, and Georgia teams alone are facing more than 1,200 job requests, Lang said.
Meal preparation takes priority
The scope of Michael’s damage has caused some reconfiguring of standard DR operations. Extensive power outages – in some cases where entire substations were lost – drives one of the most pressing needs.
“James Holloway (Bethel Baptist Association) told me there were people who hadn’t had a hot meal in days,” Lang stated. “Due to the way Disaster Relief prepares food, we rely not so much as preparing it as heating it up. Think of beef stew and rice, for instance. Because of the power issues more of those types of meals are being bought up before we can re-stock with them.”
When feeding units have to prepare the meals, that slows down the output, he explained. The end result is more people needed to put in the time to create more meals. One way they’re currently addressing that situation are teams from Kentucky chipping in to prepare food bought from Lang’s operation budget. This is done in addition to those teams’ regular workload.
“We’re buying the food for an extra 1,000 needed meals a day that the Kentucky teams will prepare,” said Lang. That’s in addition to the 6,000 meals a day already being prepared elsewhere through the state by other teams, including Georgia’s.
How to help, now and in the future
The most immediate way Georgia Baptists can help in the effort is to give, Lang emphasized. “The best way to do that is online at gabaptist.org. Our five primary staging sites can be found on our website as well.” He urged against self-deploying to affected areas or collecting items unless requested to do so.
And yes, planning a mission trip to the area would be a great idea as well. And while Georgia is currently in the news, it’s important to not overlook needs in other areas.
“I am confident there will be much work to do for months to come,” Lang said. “But, I have no clue at this point in time what or where or when. As you continue to pray about those possibilities, don’t forget about South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania/New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas, Florida, and other states that have suffered the ill effects of 2018 disasters.”