SBTC DR assists Hawaii and Pennsylvania

HONOLULU  Dodging hurricanes and wildfires, a team of eight Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief (SBTC DR) workers spent Aug. 4-12 on Oahu transforming an empty cargo trailer into a laundry and shower DR unit for the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention. The project, funded partly through the Cooperative Program, was a joint collaboration among several state Baptist conventions and the North American Mission Board.

“NAMB provided a SEND Relief trailer and channeled a grant from Home Depot to the effort,” Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, told the TEXAN.

“Arizona DR towed the trailer from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Hawaii DR paid for the trailer to be shipped to Oahu. SBTC DR sent the team to build it,” added Mike Jansen, director of the SBTC crew which included four couples: Jansen and his wife, Brenda; Stice and his wife, Judy; Paul and Linda Easter and John and Arlene Harden.

Hawaii DR hosted the couples at the Pu’u Kahea Conference Center as they worked on the installation of four shower stalls and three stacking washer/dryer units following a layout designed by Jansen.

Stice said the trailer will “meet a real need of the Hawaii DR team” and called the cooperative venture a “great example of the partnership between the SBTC and the Hawaii Pacific Convention.”

SBTC involvement grew from conversations between Stice and Darrell McCain, Hawaii Pacific DR director, when McCain served in Houston with Hawaii Pacific volunteers following Hurricane Harvey.

“We are so pleased to return a favor to Hawaii Pacific Disaster Relief after their service in Texas during Hurricane Harvey,” Stice said.

While happy to assist in the Hawaiian project, team members encountered challenges.

Travel took longer than expected with slower speed limits and abundant traffic: navigating 20 miles might take an hour or more, as Stice discovered when making supply runs.

Even getting to Pu’u Kahea proved problematic.

The team landed in Honolulu on Sat., Aug. 4, only to find roads to the conference center at Waianae impassable because of raging wildfires. After attending services at nearby Waikiki Baptist Church on Sunday, they arrived at the conference center that afternoon to begin work.

The crew felt they experienced the “real Hawaii,” not the tourist version, Brenda Jansen told the TEXAN. This included seeing far more homeless people than she expected.

“I was not aware of how many homeless there are in Hawaii” said Brenda, who described a homeless village with its own “self-proclaimed mayor,” rules and laws located less than a mile from the Pu’u Kahea center. Homeless people in Hawaii prefer to be called “houseless,” she said, noting that some have jobs but still live on the beaches, their tents and tarps visible each evening after the public leaves.

While the team mainly worked on the trailer, spiritual conversations did occur.

“I am of the Buddha faith,” a kindly female store clerk replied to Brenda’s query. “I must respect your faith and you must respect mine,” the lady continued.

The landscape also surprised Brenda, who said that while the conference center was lush and green, the surrounding land was desert-like, with burnt grasslands and mountains. Smoke from wildfires and the noise of firetrucks were constant.

Hurricane Hector threatened landfall south of the islands while the group worked. They finished the job just as Hurricane Lane approached.

Jansen commended the assistance of McCain and the volunteers and staff at Pu’u Kahea. The new unit will prove invaluable on the islands, where it will be shipped from island to island to serve volunteers during disasters, he added.

The unit may well experience its maiden deployment in the wake of Hurricane Lane. Stice confirmed that a mud-out team of SBTC DR volunteers from the Panhandle is preparing to deploy to Hawaii over Labor Day weekend to assist victims of the most recent storm.

Meanwhile, a 10-person team of SBTC DR volunteers in mud-out, feeding and chaplaincy led by Monte Furrh of Bonham arrived in Bloomsburg, Pa., Aug. 26. Furrh’s team is expected to work 10 days helping victims of flooding caused by torrential rains, Stice said.

Many basements are flooded, said Furrh, adding that the crew is scheduled to mud-out the basement of the police station in nearby Benton, Pa., on Aug. 30. David Dean will lead a team of Austin-area volunteers to Pennsylvania also.

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