SBTC DR aids New Mexico fire and flood survivors, encounters flash floods themselves

SBTC DR volunteers circled up to pray for first responders and survivors while a swift water rescue occurred just down an adjacent hill near First Baptist Ruidoso, site of mass feeding operations. SUBMITTED PHOTO

RUIDOSO, N.M.—Eleven Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers rolled into Ruidoso, N.M., on Tuesday, June 26, quickly setting up the SBTC DR mass feeding unit from Flint Baptist Church in the parking lot of First Baptist Church in Ruidoso.

Their task? Partnering with New Mexico Baptist DR, they would support the American Red Cross in feeding evacuees at shelters and survivors in the community displaced by the devastating summer wildfires still partly burning around Ruidoso.

They got far more than expected.

“We came to respond to fires and a flood,” said Debby Nichols, a team leader from DeKalb. “But since we’ve been here, we have had two major flash floods.”

One flash flood occurred about 50 yards downhill from FBC Ruidoso.

Nichols and her yellow-shirted crew watched and prayed as firefighters hurried down the nearby hillside to rescue people stuck in their vehicles after a flash flood swept across the road just below the church.

The DR volunteers circled up to pray for the victims and the first responders, pulling them from flooded cars and trucks.

For Nichols and many of the volunteers, it was the first swift-water rescue they had ever seen: “We were in no danger, but they were. We prayed for them all.”

The team had at least one other narrow escape, Nichols said. Less than two hours after they had eaten in town after church on Sunday, June 30, another flash flood struck, inundating the street and restaurant where they had been.

Between close calls, the team has been busy preparing around 1,400 meals per day—700 lunches and 700 dinners—for distribution by the Red Cross to survivors at sites established in tribal areas, shelters, and other locations.

The SBTC DR mass feeding team expects to be in the area until Saturday, July 6, Nichols said.

In addition to the Texas feeding crew, volunteers from New Mexico, Arizona, and Louisiana Baptist DR teams are serving at the church, which is also functioning as a point of distribution for relief supplies for the community. SBDR chaplains are counseling and praying with survivors. SBDR administrative volunteers are assisting with logistical matters.

SBTC DR mass feeding volunteers have prepared 1,400 meals per day since June 27 for flood and fire survivors in New Mexico. SUBMITTED PHOTO

‘A blessing to help people’

As with all major emergencies involving a large SBDR response, Ruidoso is very much a team effort.

While officially charged with mass feeding operations, Nichols said SBTC DR volunteers are praying also, and not just for stranded motorists. They pray for and with truck drivers dropping off and picking up supplies, Red Cross workers driving emergency response vehicles into the church parking lot, and community members just walking by.

The Ruidoso deployment marks the first for Tyler resident Lori Padgett, a dyslexia reading specialist with the Tyler Independent School District. Although she trained in mass feeding more than a year ago, Padgett’s schedule has not allowed her to deploy prior to Ruidoso.

“It’s a great experience,” Padgett said, admitting she was initially a bit nervous. “It’s a lot of work but it’s a blessing to help people. We are supposed to help people in need and that is what we are doing.”

Everyone in the community has been grateful, Padgett noted. Often people in stores and restaurants stop and express gratitude to the “yellow shirts.”

“They thank us for being here and for helping,” she said.

“We are so grateful to serve the residents of New Mexico and work alongside the very capable NMDR team,” SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice said. He also praised the SBTC DR shower unit, which deployed to assist evacuees at a Roswell shelter.

“We can always count on New Mexico DR to respond to needs in Texas. We are pleased that we have been able to return the favor following fires and floods in Ruidoso and in Lincoln and Chavez counties,” Stice added.

As the backs of their shirts reveal, volunteers from Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, and SBTC DR/Texas served together in Ruidoso. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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