SBTC staffer shifts gears to help hurricane-affected churches toward recovery

In his newest role on the SBTC’s ministry team, Gibbie McMillan is determined to help pastors and churches victimized by hurricanes Katrina and Rita transition from what he calls “survival mode” to “recovery mode.”

Now on special assignment with the Minister-Church Relations (MCR) department in a hurricane recovery role, McMillan and MCR director Deron Biles are busy assessing needs of hurricane-affected churches, aiding pastors and staff members and disbursing funds channeled through the SBTC by churches, the North American Mission Board (NAMB), LifeWay Christian Resources and even the Florida Baptist Convention, which sent a check after Rita hit Southeast Texas.

In all, the SBTC received nearly $1 million from varied sources to distribute to hurricane victims in Texas and Louisiana.

“Which is why this position came into being,” McMillan said. “Because we’re not going to be able to just give money away. You have to have some way of knowing and assessing the damage, knowing who is in need of the money, and then how we are going to disburse it.”

Some of it went to such things as immediate financial assistance for Texas churches hit with several weeks of canceled services and crunched finances after Rita. The SBTC has also helped its sister Baptists in Louisiana and is providing $50,000 towards the salary of Joe McKeever, director of missions in the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans (BAGNO), an area where a majority of the 144 churches and missions there will not reopen, McMillan said.

The convention is also helping refurbish New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and gave $45,000 to help the Louisiana Baptist Convention serve its churches.

Such cooperation is noteworthy, Biles said.

“Because we have a vehicle, the Cooperative Program, which has been in place for more than 80 years, we were able to provide immediate assistance to churches and Baptist ministries as well as ongoing, long-term help,” Biles said. “Locally, statewide and nationally (Southern Baptists) partnered together. There’s no other missions-funding vehicle that can do that.”

Because requests have slowed considerably, McMillan said he is concerned some pastors and churches that still need help are not seeking it because they assume they can handle it themselves or think others are more worthy of help.

“Most of the churches we helped already missed anywhere from 2-4 weeks of regular services,” McMillan said.

Others exceeded their weekly budget demands several times over by housing several hundred evacuees and feeding them daily for more than a week. In Texas, the SBTC disbursed funds to help churches with such things as utility bills, salary supplements and building note payments.

One church had four full-time ministry and administrative staff members and an average weekly offering of $13,000. Amid housing evacuees while not holding church services, the church fell about $25,000 behind budget.

“We gave them $7,000,” McMillan explained. “So you can see from that that we are not trying to cover so that they have no loss at all. We’re just trying to aid in some of the loss because we can’t underwrite all of the losses for all of the churches. And what you can’t do for all of them you shouldn’t do for just one.”

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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