A massive Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response is underway in Louisiana and other states in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
At least 80 Louisiana Baptist churches, associational offices and ministry centers sustained damage or destruction due to the powerful Category 4 storm, according to John Hebert, who leads Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief as director of missions and ministries for Louisiana Baptists.
Thousands of homes and businesses in Louisiana and beyond also were damaged by Ida’s strong winds and heavy rains.
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary escaped major damage, though repairs were needed due to downed trees and lack of power, which led the seminary to move to online instruction through Sept. 20.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from 14 states were at work as of Sept. 9, repairing homes, serving food and sharing Christ’s love in the region.
“Not only are we here preparing meals for people in need and cleaning out houses, we also have an opportunity to share the gospel,” Tom Beam, North Carolina Baptist Men/Baptists on Mission coordinator, told the Louisiana Baptist Message. “Our volunteers make sure that they talk to people (about Christ) every day.”
Disaster relief teams from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas were working in Louisiana at press time.
The teams have prepared and served thousands of meals, assessed damage on more than 500 properties, completed dozens of chainsaw jobs and roof repairs, offered more than 1,200 showers and completed more than 800 loads of laundry.
They also have distributed Bibles and shared the gospel along the way, and at least 12 professions of faith have been reported.
Jay Woods, incident commander for Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief’s command center at Woodland Park Baptist Church in Hammond, said helping residents return to their homes is important but sharing the gospel is the ultimate goal.
“Our teams actually talk to people one on one, spread the gospel and tell people about Jesus,” he said. “None of our teams go out without telling the families that they are dealing with about Jesus, which is our number one priority. And that’s what we are doing here.”
Several Louisiana Baptist churches are accepting donations of cleaning supplies and nonperishable food items.
Send Relief is also providing material support. Southern Baptist’s compassion ministry arm has provided tankers of potable water, generators, fuel, roofing materials and more to aid in the relief efforts.
Working in partnership with Home Depot, Send Relief also provided 24 generators, fuel cans, box fans, air conditioning units and extension cords to Children’s Hospital New Orleans.
Ida’s destruction was not limited to southeast Louisiana. Damage in Mississippi was minimal, but Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief assisted many homeowners in tree and debris removal. The storm dropped heavy rains as it moved northeast across the U.S.
The Virginia Baptist Disaster Response teams helped with feeding, crisis care and cleanup in Hurley, Virginia, where heavy rains from Ida caused flooding.
Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey is responding to 500 disaster relief requests from York County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia (all in Pennsylvania). Teams from Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and South Carolina are helping across the state, according to Shannon Baker, director of communications/editor for BRN United.
And in New York and New Jersey, disaster relief volunteers with the Baptist Convention of New York were helping residents who experienced destructive flash flooding and tornadoes in their region.
Meanwhile, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief sent generators and other supplies to Louisiana while their volunteers continue to aid residents of Middle Tennessee who were affected by regional flooding Aug. 21. Tennessee disaster relief volunteers expect to be deployed to Louisiana in the coming weeks.
Click here to see a list of needs, donation sites and other updates on Hurricane Ida relief efforts in Louisiana. (Baptist Message staff contributed)