Southern Baptists Help Disaster Survivors Amid Ongoing Coronavirus Response

The Houston Food Bank provides food for thousands each Saturdays at two drive-thru sites. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have been helping each week. Photo by Kyle Sadler

HOUSTON (BP) — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders and volunteers continue meeting needs and sharing the hope of the Gospel in response both to the ongoing pandemic and to natural disasters in their communities. The challenges presented by COVID-19 have necessitated adjustments, but SBDR has sought to ensure a continued presence and continued service.

“I’ve been really encouraged to see Southern Baptists step up, encouraged but not surprised,” said Sam Porter, national director of SBDR through the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Send Relief. “When needs arise, Southern Baptists don’t shy away from reaching out no matter what challenges are in their way.”

Volunteers and teams with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) have been providing support to the Houston Food Bank at food distribution sites in the Houston area, according to an April 23 report from the Southern Baptist Texan.

The size of these distributions required hundreds of volunteers to pack food boxes and load them into vehicles as well as the assistance of the National Guard to direct traffic, the Texan reported. Volunteers with SBDR prepared hot meals for the food bank workers and helped operate hospitality tents located onsite.

“The food bank had so much food and so many people who needed it,” SBDR volunteer Connie Roark told the Texan. “It was a great day for us. The food bank expected to serve 5,000 by the evening.”

During the same week, a tornado hit the small town of Onalaska, roughly 85 miles north of Houston, claiming the lives of at least three people, destroying dozens of homes and damaging at least 245 more. An SBTC volunteer crew arrived the following day to clear downed trees and debris.

Texas SBDR Scottie Stice told the Texan the pandemic has prompted changes to disaster relief policies. One of the changes is the inability of teams to stay near disaster sites overnight due to social distancing guidelines.

“It’s a new day in DR,” Stice said. “Now we try to do day trips as much as possible.”

SBDR crews across North America are helping two disparate groups — those affected by the economic and medical impact of coronavirus as well as those whose lives are upturned by spring storms.

A seven-person Louisiana Baptist disaster relief team has been providing 800-1,000 meals a day in Lake Charles, La., and distributing them through two area churches. The volunteers follow strict sanitary and social distancing protocols while preparing and delivering the food.

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Source: Baptist Press