DR volunteers have busy late summer, fall

Flooding provided opportunities to share Christ in deed and word.

Tropical storms kept SBTC Disaster Relief teams busy through September and into October. Atlantic hurricane season begins in June and lasts through November, with September the most active month. This year was no different.

Tropical storm Hermine, the worst storm to hit Texas this season, blew through the state the second week of September, spawning a series of storms, and overwhelming some regions with rain. When the skies cleared, mud-out teams trained by the SBTC Disaster Relief task force were there to begin the cleanup.

As flooding swept through Arlington, Williamson County and Corpus Christi over a span of three weeks, the SBTC deployed disaster relief (DR) volunteers to the three locations.

“The deployments came just one after another,” said Scottie Stice, a DR task force member. “It was the same event; we were just responding in sequence trying to do what we could to help. We started in Arlington. The following week we sent teams to Williamson County and the next week to Corpus.”

By Sept. 16, a week after Hermine began her sweep through the Dallas-Fort Worth area, volunteers led by DR veteran volunteer Paul Easter of Mount Pleasant arrived in Arlington with mud-out trailer in tow. Easter, who keeps an SBTC trailer stocked and ready to go at a moment’s notice, organized a five-person team to help the flood victims.

The flooding in Arlington was localized to one primary neighborhood where Easter’s team set to work, cleaning out a house per day from Sept. 16 through Sept. 22, finishing seven homes in all. The mud-out process for each home included removing ruined carpet, wet sheetrock, damaged cabinets and furniture and spraying the house with a chemical to kill mold.

Williamson County
Another DR veteran, Mike Northen, education minister at Austin-area First Baptist Church of Pflugerville, responded with a team to the flooding in nearby Williamson County, cleaning homes in nearby Round Rock and Georgetown, where members of trained mud-out teams joined them to guide local volunteers and assist cleanup.

“They had willing hearts,” Stice said. “They had disaster relief training but not mud-out training. Most of their volunteers were on a cooking unit. They had a strong desire to go out and help their own community in that time of need. They responded as soon as they were aware of the need.”
Local emergency managers contacted Northen about the needs they witnessed in the flood zone, asking for help. Northen contacted the SBTC and received encouragement to send in local support from his own church.

In all, three teams worked over the course of two weeks to assess and complete mud-out projects in the area.

“This area was tricky,” Stice said. “It was flash flooding scattered out all over the county, not concentrated in a single neighborhood like the other locations.”

Northen’s assessment volunteers took a week determining the amount of damage and prioritizing work orders. The flash flooding affected 482 homes in Williamson County.

“By the time we got on the scene, a lot of them had taken care of themselves,” Northen said. “We handled the last few that were left. But I still get e-mails every now and then from the emergency management teams in those areas asking if we can help with another need they have discovered in the area.”

The team was able to do mud-out work in five to 10 homes. Mostly, the work involved spraying the homes for mold. However, a few projects were more in-depth.

The experience was a blessing to the Pflugerville team, three out of four of whom were unemployed, Northen said. “They really felt good about doing something worthwhile during that down time of looking for work.”

The experience also encouraged them to get more DR training so that they would be able to deploy more often. It introduced them to mud-out and made them enthusiastic about helping more people through this ministry.

“If Baptist churches in each community had their own disaster relief teams, they could respond to local disasters, have a local influence,” Northen said. “I would encourage every church in our convention to give serious thought to getting involved in DR. There are many people who might not feel like they can fill a ministry role, but this is something they can do. They can pull a trailer. They can do assessments. They can stir a pot of beans or serve a plate of food. This is one of the greatest evangelistic opportunities we can have and I would encourage every church to really consider involving their people.”

Corpus Christi
The last week of September through the first week of October brought SBTC DR teams to Corpus Christi where homes had been flooded by an overflowing drainage ditch.

Of 140 residents in the area, more than 100 of them requested help from DR volunteer teams. According to Stice, every flood relief project is essentially the same in regards to what needs to be done. However, there is a small window of time in which to do it. It takes time to organize and deploy a team. It takes more time to assess and prioritize needs.

“In Williamson County we got word a little too late, and had a hard time finding work orders,” Stice said. “With Corpus, we hit the window exactly right and rolled up 119 work orders in a week.”

As per procedure, assessment teams went door-to-door through the area talking to homeowners, assessing damage, and offering help.

Jolissa Hart of First Baptist Church in Winona served as the operations “blue hat” for the Corpus DR efforts. As a blue hat, she has been trained in nearly every aspect of disaster relief work. Hart was also one of the first women to be certified to work with a chainsaw. Now she works in operations prioritizing projects and organizing volunteer teams to work in the disaster areas.

“When we first got there and actually went into the area there was stuff lined up on the side of the streets that homeowners had pulled out of their homes,” Hart said. “They had already started doing cleanup.”

The residents were more than happy to receive help from DR volunteer teams.

Julian Moreno, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Uvalde led the mud-out efforts with 28 volunteers involved. One elderly couple prayed to receive Christ after Moreno shared the gospel.

Moreno asked for prayer for these and everyone involved as the work is nearly completed.

“Please remember these residents in their time of need,” Moreno asked. “Pray also for those that made professions of faith. Pray that local churches will be successful in following up with them. Pray also for strength for the volunteers who are working so hard in such tough conditions.”
For more information on volunteering or on receiving DR training for members of your church, contact Jim Richardson by e-mail at jrichardson@sbtexas.com or by phone at 877-953-7282 (SBTC).

Donations to SBTC Disaster Relief may be made electronically at sbtexas.com/DR or by writing a check to “Disaster Relief,” P.O. Box 1988, Grapevine, TX 76099-1988. All funds go directly toward current or future disaster relief efforts.

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