Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010, marks five years since Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast. This week we remember this major U.S. disaster – the sadness and destruction, the survivors, the responders, and the lives changed.
Hurricane Katrina didn’t just change communities and lives; it changed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, too. In the five years since Katrina, the Fellowship’s disaster response ministry has grown, captured the hearts of many Fellowship Baptists, and gained national recognition.
Today, the Fellowship’s hurricane response efforts are coordinated by Charles Ray, who provides leadership along with Reid Doster, CBF of Louisiana’s coordinator. Reid, who lives in southern Louisiana, and Charles, who lives in Little Rock, Ark., met in the aftermath of Katrina when Charles would drive to Louisiana as often as twice a week to volunteer in Reid’s community, or somewhere close by. As the two men saw the difference this ministry made and discovered a passion for disaster response, they became committed to growing the Fellowship’s disaster response efforts.
It took several months, but when the national news shifted from Katrina, many nonprofits began to pull out of the Gulf Coast. The crisis phase was over, but the recovery was just beginning. So, the Fellowship dug in deeper in several communities, and CBF volunteers kept pouring in the Gulf Coast and would for several years.
In the years since Katrina, the Fellowship has responded to a host of other disasters. In February 2007, the Fellowship aided a community after a tornado struck in Florida. Twenty-two days later there was another tornado in Arkansas. Four days later, there was yet another tornado in Alabama. There were also the fires in San Diego, Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana, flooding in central Georgia, and more. For each disaster the Fellowship has found a way to partner, to make a difference in a forgotten or overlooked area, and to be the presence of Christ. Now, the Fellowship is engaged in Haiti earthquake recovery, where working with many old and new partners is resulting in more being done together to rebuild Haiti than could ever be done alone.
All these efforts haven’t gone unnoticed nationally. This summer, the Fellowship was accepted into the Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD). This group consists of 50 of the largest, strongest disaster response agencies in the country. And CBF was admitted to the organization as the 51st such group, bringing several key strengths to the table.
“CBF’s strengths are the generosity of its people and its staying power,” said Charles Ray. “We’ll come in up to a month after the event, and we’ll stay as long as it takes.”
That was one of the lessons of Katrina – stay the course, dig in deep, and watch God change hearts, lives and communities.
Other Katrina blog entries:
• Remembering the Sadness, the Destruction and Survival
• Responders See Change
• Recovery in Alabama and Mississippi
• Recovery in Louisiana
• How the Fellowship Changed