We have been asked to share our experiences with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) organization in response to Hurricane Harvey.
When Hurricane Irma hit south Florida only days after Harvey tore into the Texas coast, we felt we needed to do something to help. A little research informed us that volunteers were needed—a lot of volunteers—to help ease the pain of the hurricane victims. We were accepted by the SBDR, organization to go help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
In October 2017, we traveled to Galveston, Texas to work with the SBDR in response to Hurricane Harvey. We spent a week in Texas and primarily helped with 'mud-outs,' which involves not only getting the water and mud out of the house, but pretty much everything else that has been exposed to the water, especially salt water. One particular image is seared onto my brain and heart. One evening, while returning to the Galveston First Baptist Church where we were staying, we were on the highway on an overpass, and I was able to get a good look at one particular street. On both sides of the street, as far as I could see, were large mounds of trash piled high (8-10 feet high). This included drywall, floor tile, appliances, furniture and pretty much everything else you can find in a home. Imagine everything you own, piled on the curb, waiting to be picked up and taken to the landfill. It reminded me of how temporary everything in life is. Everything is temporary—except one thing.
As mentioned, the First Baptist Church of Galveston provided the lodging and the use of their kitchen for volunteer meals. We were there with thirty to forty others from all over the county. There were teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona, Missouri, and two people from Atlanta and even one from California. The volunteers were pretty fluid, coming and going at different times and dates. Most would stay three to seven days, although some were staying longer.
Most of the volunteers staying in Galveston were there to work on the ‘mud-out’ crews. A few miles away in Texas City, another Southern Baptist Church was hosting a larger group of volunteers, which included a ‘Mass Feeding’ unit. These volunteers were preparing most of the meals served or delivered by the American Red Cross. The North American Missions Board (NAMB) website is showing two million meals prepared by Southern Baptist volunteers and served to victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. During a tour of the Mass Feeding kitchen set-up on the church’s parking lot, the volunteer running the Mass Feeding operation told us that, to that point, over one million meals had been served in South Texas alone, and that particular unit in Texas City was serving six to ten thousand meals per day.
As you can probably imagine, training and vetting is necessary to be a SBDR volunteer. In our case, the Lord wanted us in Texas, so these requirements were relaxed. We both feel led to continue to volunteer, especially since we have learned how often these volunteers are needed to help victims of storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and other natural and man-made disasters. Just in Missouri, in the last few years, I can recall the tornadoes in Joplin and Bridgeton and the flooding which occurs almost every spring.
As always, the Lord’s timing is perfect, and just two weeks after we returned to Foristell, a Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief Training session was scheduled in southern Missouri and we attended and are now certified in Mass Feeding and Shower and Laundry units. Next spring, we will attend additional training.
If you are interested in getting involved in disaster relief, a good place to start is the Missouri Baptist Convention website. There you can find out how to apply and register for training classes. Of course, if you are unable to volunteer, your prayers and donations are always needed and welcomed.
We urge you to prayerfully consider volunteering. The need is great and you can help. Age and abilities will not prevent you from helping. In our very limited experience, we have witnessed college aged to octogenarians, and skilled craftsmen to folks who barely know what a hammer looks like. All that is necessary is a willingness to help and love for your fellow man.
In addition, please do not forget about those prayers and donations.
Thanks for your time.
Tom & Claudia Maloney