It has been nearly two weeks since Hurricane Ian made its devastating landfall in southwest Florida, and volunteers with Florida Baptist Disaster Relief and 16 other state conventions, alongside local churches and pastors, have committed to serving for as long as there is a need.
And for Cape Coral, the need is great.
Known for its many canals and more than 400 miles of navigable waterways, the city found itself directly in the eye of Hurricane Ian’s 155 mph winds and 13-foot storm surge. With the catastrophic devastation leaving more than two million southwest Florida residents without power for more than a week, local churches and pastors have rallied together to provide resources and volunteers to the hard-hit community.
New Hope Church
Immediately springing into action was New Hope Church of Cape Coral.
Positioned as one of the nine FBDR command centers in the region, the church has had a steady stream of Disaster Relief volunteers and church members who have served in daily food distribution and community cleanup.
Over the past 12 days, the Cape Coral church has been on a mission to meet not only the physical needs but also the spiritual needs of community residents.
“This is why we do what we do,” said David Acton, lead pastor at New Hope.
“Yes, we want people to have food, water and clean clothes, but we also desire to be relational with people and encourage those in our community through prayer.”
Throughout the past several days, Acton has turned to social media to encourage the church to continue serving its neighbors in need.
“I pray that each of you has the strength and opportunity to show God’s love in a tangible way to your friends and neighbors,” posted Acton, former International Mission Board missionary.
The church has leaned on assistance and resources from Florida Baptists, North Carolina Baptists and the American Red Cross, and also local churches from across Florida and Georgia have partnered together to serve this devastated community.
Grace Baptist Church
The overwhelming destruction and lack of power did not stop Grace Baptist Church of Cape Coral from gathering for worship the first Sunday after Hurricane Ian made landfall.
Members of Grace Baptist Church gathered for worship on Sunday (Oct. 2), the first Sunday following Hurricane Ian making landfall. While singing all five stanzas of “It Is Well,” more than 200 men, women and children gathered for worship while using flashlights.
“The damage and devastation here [Cape Coral] are beyond comprehension,” said Hannah Ellis, longtime church member.
“We are going to be a part of a massive long-term relief work in our area,” she said, “and many needs will continue to arise in the days, months and years to come as we try to rebuild.”
And, meeting needs is exactly what the church has done as it partners with others in recovery efforts.
“We are excited to be working with One More Child as they distribute essential supplies,” said Tom Ascol, senior pastor of the Cape Coral church.
Local churches from across the nation and the Sunshine State have equipped the church to provide more than 15 truckloads of supplies to community residents.
Churches in Tampa, Sarasota, Clearwater and Miami are just a few that have shown overwhelming support.
Because of this outpouring of support, Grace Baptist was able to provide food, water, pet supplies, hygiene items, cleaning supplies, diapers and wipes and other essential items within the first 72 hours after Hurricane Ian’s landfall.
“Thank you for your prayers,” Ascol said in a social media post. “Supplies are coming in from across the nation. We see God’s hand at work. Please continue to pray as we seek to make Christ known in the wake of #HurricaneIan.”
Providing for the tangible needs for the community, the church is committed to sharing the gospel and seeing lives changed.
“God has been abundantly good to us. … Hurting neighbors are being served in the name of Christ, and the gospel is being preached,” Ascol posted.
“Linking arms with other pastors and churches … biblical counseling throughout each day … Great needs. Greater God! Pray for our faithfulness!”
Ways to help
Check with your church, association or state Baptist convention to find out how they are contributing to ongoing relief efforts in Florida, your state and beyond. To contact your state convention for more information, click here. Or, for more information about Send Relief, click here.