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Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Update – October 12, 2016

Miss. volunteers ready to deploy

By William H. Perkins Jr.

Editor, The Baptist Record

Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief teams are prepared for the call to mobilization in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew’s rake of the U.S. East Coast last week, according to Don Gann, disaster relief coordinator and director of men’s ministry for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson.

“We were on standby to take the mass feeding unit to Florida, but the damage there was not as great as they anticipated so the Florida Baptist Convention Disaster Relief organization said they could handle the response themselves,” Gann said.

Mississippi Baptist’s largest mass feeding unit is a specially-outfitted 18-wheeler that is fully self-contained and capable of supplying 20,000 meals per day for disaster victims and first responders. It is stationed at Central Hills Retreat near West when not on active duty.

“Hurricane Matthew struck states that have some of the most capable Baptist disaster relief organizations in the system. Georgia Baptists are handling their state’s needs. South Carolina Baptists are staffing three feeding sites.

“North Carolina Baptist Disaster relief is a strong unit. They were on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for an extended period of time, helping us after Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” Gann said.

Gann pointed out that Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief is a component of the Southern Baptist Convention-wide system coordinated by a special office at the North American Mission Board in suburban Atlanta.

“We don’t self-deploy,” he said. We’re part of a very effective system that can position disaster relief units from all around the Southern Baptist Convention in the places where they are most needed after a disaster.”

That coordination keeps disaster relief volunteers and equipment from unnecessarily bunching up in places where needs are not as great in the first few days and weeks after a disaster, Gann said.

“Many disaster responses go on for months and even years. Workers are needed all during that time and coordination helps make the overall, long-term response more effective.”

Meanwhile, Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief is partnering with Louisiana Baptists to continue the long-term response to the historic August floods in that neighboring state, Gann said.

“This is the second major flood response this year for Louisiana Baptists, and we have made a commitment to help them however we can in their recovery.”

Also, local Mississippi Baptists in the Wilkinson County area of Mississippi Association, just across the state line from Louisiana, have geared up for long-term recovery work made necessary by August flooding in their area.

The Wilkinson County Community-Based Recovery Committee has been formed, and chairwoman Liz McGraw, a member of Woodville Church in Woodville, has issued an appeal for assistance.

“Your church can help by committing to bring meals or groceries to be used in preparing meals. Please call Bart Houston, pastor of Crosby Church, at (601) 384-7969 to schedule a meal.

“If your congregation would like to send a crew of volunteers, please call the Committee’s volunteer coordinator Aimee Chiovaro at (601) 660-0925. To donate building supplies, please contact the Committee’s construction coordinator Steve Hayes at (225) 235–7807.

‘Another way to help is through monetary donations. Enloe Kee of Woodville Church is serving as treasurer. His ministry, PBM Ministries, Inc., is the designated 501(c)(3) charity to which you can send tax-deductible gifts. Donations may be sent to P.O. Box 874, Woodville, MS 39669.

“Please know that 100% of the donations will go directly toward recovery efforts. The Committee is composed of volunteers. No one is receiving income.”

For more information on any of these disaster responses, contact Gann at P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. Telephone: (601) 292-3335 or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651;335. E-mail: dgann@mbcb.org. Web site: mbcb.org.

The Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force is funded by gifts to the Mississippi Cooperative Program, the Margaret Lackey Offering for State Missions, and post-disaster donations.

Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Update – October 6, 2016.

On August 12, the lives of 103 families in Mississippi Baptist Association were radically affected by floodwaters. These families live in Crosby, Centreville, and Buffalo. Some houses were destroyed. Most suffered major damage. FEMA did not classify Wilkinson County as a disaster area, and I believe that provides an incredible opportunity for the Body of Christ to share the Love of Christ.

First and foremost, please pray for victims. Many have lost everything. Also, pray for Crosby Baptist Church and the newly formed Wilkinson County Community-Based Recovery Committee, hereinafter known as the Committee, as we lead out in recovery efforts.

Bart Houston, pastor of Crosby Baptist Church, and his congregation have poured their lives into this recovery effort. They have been providing breakfast, lunch, and supper for 35-40 folks since the disaster. Your church can help by committing to bring meals or groceries to be used in preparing meals. Please call Bro. Bart at (601) 384-7969 to schedule a meal.

If your congregation would like to send a crew of volunteers, please call the Committee’s volunteer coordinator Aimee Chiovaro at (601) 660-0925. To donate building supplies, please contact the Committee’s construction coordinator Steve Hayes at (225) 2357807.

Another way to help is through monetary donations. Enloe Kee of Woodville Church is serving as treasurer. His ministry, PBM Ministries, Inc., is the designated 501(c)(3) charity to which you can send tax-deductible gifts. Donations may be sent to P.O. Box 874, Woodville, MS 39669. Please know that 100% of the donations will go directly toward recovery efforts. The Committee is composed of volunteers. No one is receiving income.

There is an additional opportunity to help. Two predominantly African-American Baptist churches received major damage in the flood: Evening Star Baptist Church in Buffalo, and Crosby Union Baptist Church in Crosby. If your church would like to partner with either of these churches or if you have any questions, please call me at (601) 431-9151.

In advance, thank you for your prayers and support.

Liz McGraw, Committee chair

Member of Woodville Baptist Church, Woodville

McGraw is a member of the executive committee of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and a frequent Sunday School lessons contributor for The Baptist Record.

Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Update – August 24, 2016

FLOODING AFTERMATH — Floodwaters building over the past several weeks of heavy rains destroyed or damaged an estimated 60 churches in Louisiana, including (clockwise) Crossgate Church in Robert, French Corner Church in Ponchatoula, River Road Church in Hammond, and Blood River Church in Albany. (BP photos)
MC VOLUNTEERS — A large group of Mississippi College (MC) student volunteers traveled to Denham Springs, La., to assist victims of the flood. Mudout work included removing wet carpet, cutting out ruined sheetrock and insulation, cleaning out cabinets, and moving waterlogged furniture to the street for pick up. (BR photo courtesy of MC)
MISS. BAPTIST VOLS – Philip Price (left), missions director for Jackson Association in Pascagoula, and Sam Lafoon, member of First Church, Columbus, lug a fully-loaded ice chest of supplies into position at the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief mass feeding unit operating at Woodlawn Park Church in Hammond La. (BR photo courtesy of Don Gann)

FRENCH SETTLEMENT, La. (BP and local reports) – Amid massive flooding in Louisiana and nearby southwest Mississippi, over 2,000 Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) volunteers have fanned out in both states to assist in response and recovery.

“I’m sure that’s just a partial number of all that have responded. There are some we don’t know about,” said Don Gann, director of men’s ministry and DR coordinator for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson.

Mudout work was completed over the past weekend in the Crosby area of Wilkinson County in Mississippi. Mississippi Baptist DR units partnered with local community organizations, including Crosby Church, to help flood victims begin the repair process, Gann said.

The Mississippi Baptist DR mass feeding unit set up at Woodlawn Park Church in Hammond, La., has surpassed 4,000 meals served and will continue to operate into the foreseeable future, according to Gann.

At the request of Louisiana Baptists, Mississippi Baptist DR has taken the lead in organizing and coordinating response efforts in the Hammond and Zachary, La., areas for Southern Baptist teams arriving from across the country, Gann reported.

“We’re also supplying DR teams and church teams in the Kentwood, La., area under the coordination of Louisiana Baptist DR,” he added, “and we’re helping connect Mississippi Baptist churches with various donation points for collecting recovery supplies.”

Aboard a Black Hawk helicopter rescuing flood victims in south Louisiana, Staff Sgt. Chad McCann saw water to the roofs of homes “as far as you can see,” with the Amite River still rising and “methodically washing away foundations, structures, and trees.”

“It is way worse… more widespread” than even record-setting Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said McCann, a member of Union Church in Deville, La., who made 80 airlift rescues after the Katrina onslaught.

[T]hese people live in areas that have never flooded… not in a 1,000 years,” McCann told the Baptist Message, news journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

“They had no way of knowing this was going to happen when they went to bed Friday night,” the Army National Guard crew member said of flooding that has claimed 13 lives since Aug. 13.

McCann’s aviation unit was flying over some of the hardest-hit areas of flooding that has destroyed or damaged at least 40,000 homes across 20 Louisiana parishes. An estimated 60 Southern Baptist churches have been destroyed or damaged along with the homes of 20 or more pastors – many without flood insurance.

McCann said the rescue missions took a toll on the helicopter’s pilots and crew spiritually, emotionally, and physically in making 48 rescues, some in driving rain.

McCann asked for prayer for his unit but more so, for the people devastated by the flood.

“They have lost everything. They have lost their homes, their possessions, and their livelihood but they haven’t lost hope. We are meeting some amazing people every day. So please pray for God to strengthen these people.”

John Hebert, the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s missions director, said it is “an opportunity to restore lives, but also to win souls.” He urged prayer that “the lost will see Christ in us and allow us to share the Gospel with them.”

Regarding volunteers, Hebert said, “In situations like this, we need a lot of warm bodies and we are prepared to qualify ‘walk-ups’ to serve on a disaster relief team with brief standardized training on-site. Then we pair them up with a certified volunteer to ensure safety and efficiency.”

Some worksites will be able to outfit workers, but Herbert urged volunteers to come prepared to be self-sufficient with work gloves and boots and such. Meals will be provided, he added.

Ron Thompson, director of missions for District Eight Baptist Convention, a group of five associations in the state, told the Message, “I don’t think it really sinks in how bad this is, until you get here. See it. Smell it. Feel it. Hear the National Guard helicopters or see the National Guard caravans. Then it sinks in.”

Down the road at New Orleans Seminary, which was devastated by Katrina in 2005, the student services staff is working to identify students and other members of the seminary family affected in various ways by the flooding in south Louisiana.

Seminary President Chuck Kelley said, “The three best ways to help are to volunteer to work on an SBC disaster relief team, donate gifts of cash to those helping the affected and those affected, or donate Walmart gift cards to families affected.

“These are the things that helped us the most after Hurricane Katrina.”

Mississippi Baptist DR is funded by gifts to the Mississippi Cooperative Program and the Margaret Lackey State Mission Offering.

Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Update – August 18, 2016

The Louisiana Baptist Convention has asked Mississippi Baptists to assist in coordinating the Disaster Response (DR) efforts in and around the Hammond, La. area. A full-scale Mississippi Baptist DR mass feeding unit is already in operation at Woodlawn Church in Hammond, and now First Church, Hammond, will provide a local headquarters for cleanup teams. As many as 5,000 homes were flooded within a 30-minute drive of Hammond.

Cleanup training will be conducted on site when untrained teams make arrangements to work in the Hammond area by coordinating their trip with Don Gann, director of men’s ministry and DR coordinator for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) in Jackson, at 601.292.3335 or toll-free 800.748.1651;335. E-mail: dgann@mbcb.org

Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief is also helping coordinate efforts in the Zachary, La., area, about 30 minutes north of Denham Springs, La. First Church, Zachary, is the local headquarters for volunteer teams.

The MBCB Men’s Ministry Department has contact information for each of these sites, as well as information that Baptist volunteer teams from Mississippi will need to know to fully assist in the response. Contact Deanna Vail at 601.292.3335 or toll-free outside Jackson 800.748.1651;335. E-mail: dvail@mbcb.org.

Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Update – August 17, 2016

Mississippi Baptists are presently responding to the flood disaster in the southwest part of the state. The town of Crosby in Wilkinson County had about 75 homes flooded over the weekend of Aug. 13-14. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has asked Mississippi Baptists to assist in helping these Mississippians with their cleanup efforts.

Mississippi Baptists are mobilizing teams through at least next weekend (Aug. 17-28) to assist in Crosby. This will mostly be cleanup work, which may include some muck-out. Teams started arriving in Crosby on Aug. 17. Mississippi Baptist churches that would like to assist with this cleanup effort should contact the Men’s Ministry Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson via e-mail (dvail@mbcb.org) or by telephone (601.292.3335 or toll-free outside Jackson 800.748.1651 ext 335).

A Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force mobile feeding unit has been deployed to Hammond, La., most likely for several weeks. Disaster Relief-trained mass feeding volunteers willing to assist with that work on a rotating basis of about five days should contact the task force at the contact points listed in the previous paragraph. Volunteers without formal mass feeding training are needed to work alongside trained volunteers.

The Louisiana Baptist Convention Disaster Relief organization has asked Mississippi Baptists to give focus to the Kentwood and Zachary areas of Louisiana. As many cleanup teams as possible are needed right away. These volunteers do not have to be Disaster Relief-trained. More information can be viewed at louisianabaptists.org. It is important to alert coordinators in these locations that teams are coming. The best way to do that for the time being is to notify Don Gann, director of men’s ministry at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, at dgann@mbcb.org.

Because many Mississippi Baptists have connections in Louisiana, there is no need (or system presently) to manage churches traveling church-to-church from Mississippi to Louisiana. However, there are three important points to note:

  • Before a church departs for Louisiana, definite contact must be made with the destination church. There may be law enforcement checkpoints that could prevent entrance to certain areas. It is crucial to attain that information and other applicable information from the destination church before departing for Louisiana.
  • Mississippi Baptist church teams need to make their own plans for housing, meals, and transportation to work sites.
  • Mississippi Baptist churches should keep their local associational missions director informed of trip plans, for tracking and coordination purposes. Contact information on associational missions directors can be found at mbcb.org/resources/how-do-i/find-an-association/.

Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief is endeavoring to identify collection points around the state for commodity donations. At this time, McLaurin Heights Church in Pearl and the Lincoln Association office in Brookhaven have agreed to serve as collection points. Others will hopefully be added. Please encourage churches/associations to contact Andy Mullins at McLaurin Heights Church (601.939.3379) and Steve Jackson at Lincoln Association (601.833.8111) BEFORE bringing donations. Below is not an exhaustive list but a sample of some items needed.

  • Early response items: Bottled water, cleaning supplies, diapers, snacks, personal hygiene items such as toothpaste, deodorant, and body wash.
  • After the first week: Boxes to store what can be salvaged from flood-damaged property, buckets, mops, disinfectant cleaners such as Pine Sol, and stain removers such as Formula 409.
  • Long-term recovery items: sheetrock, furniture, appliances, and carpet.

While there is an immediate need for donations of personal hygiene and similar short-term supplies, the flood victims will eventually need to clean up and repair/rebuild their dwellings. In the long run, items such as sheetrock, carpet, furniture, and appliances may be even more important to the victims than immediate donations of overwhelming amounts of personal supplies. Give thought and prayers now to the donation of long-term items down the road as well as short-term, immediate needs items.

Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Update – August 15, 2016

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FIRST ON SCENE — Members of Zion Hill Church in Liberty and local firefighters in Zachary, La., unload emergency supplies from the church for thousands of people affected by last weekend’s torrential rain storms. Zion Hill Church was one of the first Mississippi Baptist churches to offer assistance after the history-making flood. Authorities reported at press time that at least six people died in the flooding. (Photo courtesy of Zion Hill Church)

Miss. Baptists respond to flooding

JACKSON, Ms. (Special) — Statement from the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force in Men’s Ministry Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson:

  • Assessments in Mississippi and Louisiana are underway and will continue as flood waters recede.
  • Responses in both states will likely include mud-out, feeding, chaplaincy, and childcare.

Here’s what you can do today:

  • Pray for those affected by flooding. For many people, this is the second time this year floods have impacted their property.
  • Pray for churches in the flood area. Even in the flood waters, the church stands for hope and help.
  • Encourage your church to pray.
  • Make plans to help with response as needs are identified. 
  • TAKE ACTION:  Churches and individuals willing to give and/or go should notify Don Gann via email at dgann@mbcb.org  (Please be certain to include: contact name and number, brief description of the type of aid/assistance being offered along with the name and location of your church).
  • At this point in time, all volunteers must be at least 18 years old and have a current tetanus shot.
  • Web site: mbcb.org.
  • Financial donations are being accepted via mbcb.org/giving/ or at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS  39205. Please make checks payable to Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and note Disaster Relief on the memo line of your check. Thank you.