Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen and Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla., Thursday (Oct. 25) to encourage survivors of Hurricane Michael, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and other volunteers who have been serving the community in the storm’s aftermath.
“It’s deeply moving to us to see the level of devastation but also to see the resilience of everyone here and also to see the generosity — the generosity of the Southern Baptist Convention, Hiland Baptist Church, the [American] Red Cross,” Pence said before asking the crowd to thank the volunteers with a round of applause.
“Thank you for what all you are doing. It gives evidence of the old proverb that says, ‘The wind blew and beat against the house. The flood waters rose, but it did not fall because it was built upon the rock,'” Pence said. “I can see that this place was built upon the rock. The testimony of the generosity here is a testimony of that.”
“I’ve seen so many groups of [Southern Baptists] that have been serving meals across the state,” Scott said while also mentioning American Red Cross. “There are so many volunteers. You can tell story after story of people who have done things and gone out of their way to help other people.”
During responses to Hurricanes Michael and Florence, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief sites have received visits from government leaders — a sign of Southern Baptists’ impact in serving following disasters, said Sam Porter, national director for disaster relief with the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
President Donald Trump visited an SBDR site at Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, N.C., in September, and Scott visited a site at the Chipola (Fla.) Baptist Association’s Chipola Family Ministries on Oct. 20.
“It is always encouraging when people like the president, vice president or local leaders visit our sites,” Porter said. “I believe I can speak for all of our SBDR volunteers, though, and say that the greatest reward is the thanks and gratitude we receive from those we are there to serve.”
Hiland Park pastors Steven Kyle and Carl Fondren gave the Pences and Scott a tour of their storm-ravaged campus. The worship facility suffered severe damage, but the church still decided to stage an SBDR kitchen and house volunteers on-site. An SBDR team comprised primarily of Florida Baptists arrived two days after Hurricane Michael made landfall and began serving meals on Saturday, Oct. 13.
Several churches in the Florida Panhandle, Georgia and Alabama have been housing volunteers and hosting SBDR feeding and cleanup teams in the weeks since the storm made landfall.
In Florida, there are eight SBDR feeding sites, most of which also host recovery teams that go out into the community to help residents clear their homes and yards of downed trees and other storm debris.
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Source: Baptist Press