BEAUMONT—The Disaster Relief Ministry of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention now has three incident command units set up in East Texas to help churches minister to residents impacted by last week’s historic Tropical Storm Imelda.
“We have three incident management teams in place and are getting things organized,” said Scottie Stice, the director of disaster relief for the SBTC. “We have assessors in place, and our teams will begin to arrive this weekend or early next week and everything will be in full swing.”
The incident management teams are located at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, First Baptist Church of Vidor and First Baptist Church of Hampshire. The teams in Beaumont and Vidor are with SBTC Disaster Relief. The Hampshire team is with Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief. Stice says additional teams from the SBTC and other states are on the way. Alabama, the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, the SBC of Virginia, Tennessee, Colorado, Kentucky and Oklahoma have all activated disaster relief units to help in East Texas.
Stice adds that the teams in place right now include shower, laundry and feeding units supporting volunteers. A couple of shower units are serving shelter residents in Beaumont and Hampshire. First Baptist Church of Winnie has hosted a Convoy of Hope unit at their church and is distributing food and water to those impacted by the storm. According to the organization’s website, Convoy of Hope is a faith-based humanitarian relief organization from Springfield, Mo.
“There are lots of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief sites, which is good,” Stice said. “It’s a bigger event than any one state convention can respond to.”
The collective Southern Baptist response comes after Tropical Storm Imelda dumped 40 inches of rain on some parts of Texas, according to The Houston Chronicle. Although the storm’s landfall was expected, the severity of the storm surprised many. At least 14 SBTC churches have reported storm damage.
The Chronicle compared the storm to the downfall during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which hit some of the same places as did Imelda. Stice says while the breadth of Imelda’s devastation isn’t equal to Hurricane Harvey, the damage in the impacted communities is just as severe.
“At the same time, it’s one of the largest events we’ve ever responded to,” Stice said. “I heard a description the other day that the flood zone is equal to the size of the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. It’s still a large flood zone.”
Authorities are attributing five deaths to the tropical storm. Three died when their vehicles got caught in the flooding. One died while trying to move his horse. A fifth person was found in a ditch outside of Houston on Friday, apparently a victim of the storm as well. According to The Chronicle, more than 75 people died as a result of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
The SBTC incident command at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont was the first SBTC unit to become operational. The church had three mud-out units on site and is already serving in the community, helping homeowners and sharing the gospel.
Daniel White, the SBTC Disaster Relief “white hat,” or team member in charge of leading the Beaumont effort, notes that the response from the local community has been strong. Although many are in shock, the homeowners are appreciative of the help provided by Texas Southern Baptists.
“We’re dealing with everything from people who just got a few inches of water in their house to others who have three to four feet of water,” White said. “Many of the homeowners are just now getting everything back how it should be in the last six months after Hurricane Harvey, and now they’ve been flooded again.”
White says they need more people to volunteer to help. He encourages Texas Southern Baptists who can serve to contact the state disaster relief office and schedule a time to get trained and begin to serve. The Beaumont location currently has about 12 volunteers on site with SBTC Disaster Relief. Another 20 volunteers who have been through the Texas relief training are serving on the ground. A few other local church groups are responding with the SBDR teams as well.
Stice asked Texas Southern Baptists to pray for the teams on the ground as they continue to prepare to serve impacted communities.
“Our goal is always to be a blessing and to share the hope of Jesus Christ,” Stice said. “We share the Lord with people. We pray with Christians. We seek to be a blessing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”