McALLEN—Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief (SBTC DR) units deployed to the Rio Grande Valley shortly after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency in the region following widespread flooding after two days of torrential rainfall from a tropical storm system.
The governor’s June 22 pronouncement specified Aransas, Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces, San Patricio and Willacy counties. Prior to the announcement, mayors of McAllen, Mission, Weslaco and Edinburg—the largest cities in Hidalgo County—declared states of emergency for their cities, the Valley Morning Star reported.
It was not a typical flood event from an overflowing river or burst dam.
“It came from the sky. [The water] just dumped on them,” George Yarger, SBTC DR incident commander, told the TEXAN. Yarger, who arrived in McAllen on June 25, said he had observed hundreds of flooded homes, many clustered in neighborhoods or low lying “pockets” where the water could not drain. Thousands of homes may be affected, he added.
By June 27, volunteers in chaplaincy, assessment, clean-up and recovery, feeding, administration, and incident management were fully engaged in efforts to assist victims throughout the affected Rio Grande Valley area.
Assessors started work June 26, Daniel White, SBTC DR task force member, reported. By the end of the next day, some 40 work orders had been received and clean-up and mud-out operations begun.
A clean-out crew came from Broadview Baptist Church of Abilene, under the leadership of Brian Batchelder, consisted of individuals recruited from various locations and largely unacquainted with one another before the deployment, Yarger said.
More than 80 spiritual contacts involving prayer, gospel presentations, and/or the distribution of Bibles and tracts occurred in the early stages of the deployment, with more expected, White and Yarger reported.
Chaplains and assessors are sometimes called to share out of their own heart-wrenching experiences, as DR volunteers Wayne Barber and Julian Moreno discovered after approaching Tom, a flood victim in his sixties working in his yard.
“If you lost your life in this flood, do you know where you would be?” Barber asked Tom, only to be surprised at the man’s response. Tom indicated he hoped God would “open the door” so he could “slap him,” Barber recalled, explaining that Tom’s bitterness stemmed from the death of his child, years before.
“He [also] said he had seen too much death from working in hospitals,” Barber said, noting the Tom couldn’t understand how God could allow such tragedy.
Moreno explained to Tom that he also had lost a child, his first, in infancy. Moreno shared how heartbroken the death had left him, but how he had found peace through faith.
Tom was visibly affected by Moreno’s testimony and transparency, said Barber, who afterwards asked the man if he, too, wanted to trust Christ as savior.
“You could tell the change had already started. He said yes,” Barber said. “He was a totally different man, with the peace that only God can give. God used this experience to bring him to Jesus.”
It was one of 11 salvations to date during the deployment, Yarger confirmed, adding that DR work is expected to start on Memorial Baptist Church in Edinburg and continue on individual homes, and praising the generosity of First Baptist Church of McAllen for hosting the SBTC DR teams.
Other SBTC DR teams will transition into the area over the June 30th weekend and a laundry unit from FBC Kountze is also expected, Yarger said.
FEMA is scheduled to assess flood damage in the area this week, KRGV.com reported. Public officials are also preparing for an “expected explosion of disease-carrying mosquitoes” as floodwaters recede, the Valley Morning Star reported.
Meanwhile, Barber said, SBTC DR personnel will continue to look for “divine appointments.”
SBTC DR volunteers have also recently deployed to assist tornado victims in Connecticut.