By Rick Burnette
We greeted 2020 with plans and actions. Not only was CBF Disaster Response moving forward with involvement in the Bahamas, efforts were continuing in hurricane devastated areas of Florida and North Carolina. Additionally, we were providing support for the earthquake recovery in Puerto Rico.
Although we were preparing for the inevitable 2020 hurricanes, floods and tornados, COVID-19 was not part of the equation. The best we could do was to quickly mitigate its risk. Therefore, as CBF churches wisely heeded the recommendations of public health experts, volunteer teams had to cancel plans from early March until August 1.
Even though our movements are restricted, CBF Disaster Response efforts have not ground to a halt.
Despite COVID-19 setbacks, here is an update of recent CBF Disaster Response efforts.
In February, the CBF Bahamas North Abaco team, coordinated by Bishop John McIntosh and Christine Curry, hosted a large team of volunteers from Forests Hills Baptist (Raleigh, NC) and Calvary Baptist (Lexington, Kentucky), resulting in the repair of a home and New Hope Baptist Church. By the end of March, a total of three homes and two churches had been assisted on North Abaco. Kenny Phillips and Charles White, who serve as Disaster Response Coordinators in Florida and Kentucky, helped to facilitate the teams’ involvement.
Prior to late March, Johnette Bullard, who serves as CBF’s Local Response Contractor on Grand Bahama, coordinated the distribution of supplies that arrived in Freeport in late 2019. These materials have been used by CBF Bahamas pastors and homeowners for the repair of homes and churches in Sweetings Cay, McLean’s Town, Free Town and Pelican Point. When it is safe, recovery work is planned for more properties in High Rock and Freeport.
Although two teams – FBC Greensboro, North Carolina and FBC Carrollton, GA – had to cancel their April trips to Grand Bahama and North Abaco, materials worth $50,000 are still being purchased and shipped to enable recovery efforts to continue on both islands when the Bahamian lockdown is over.
Efforts on both Grand Bahama and North Abaco would not be possible without the logistical involvement of Melissa Rodriguez, CBF’s Bahamas Response Contractor based in Florida. Melissa also serves as the Administrative Assistant for CBF Florida, which plays a major role in advising and funding the Bahamas recovery efforts.
Teruco Tynes, who serves as CBF’s Nassau-based Local Response Contractor for Post-Disaster Spiritual Care, hosted a February visit by four American Baptist spiritual care providers. The team visited local Baptist leaders and offered counseling sessions in both Freeport and Nassau, engaging approximately 80 participants.
Rev. Jesus Garcia, pastor of Iglesia Bautista de Metrópolis (IBM), and church members have had their hands full with Hurricane Maria recovery efforts as well as their response to a series of quakes that have rocked southwest Puerto Rico.
Until the COVID-19 crisis shut down these activities, IBM hosted six volunteer groups between January and March, coordinating their efforts to assist six properties as well as a church and a farm. In addition, food and medical supplies were distributed among quake-displaced people.
To facilitate the earthquake recovery efforts, grants of $5,000 from CBF Domestic Disaster Response and $2,000 from CBF Florida have been made available to IBM. CBF also covered $3,575.00 to ship materials supplied by World Vision.
Florida and North Carolina
Besides assisting the CBF Bahamas team with logistics related to purchasing and shipping building materials needed for the recovery effort, Kenny Phillips also coordinates ongoing recovery efforts in the Florida Panhandle. Between trips to the Bahamas, Kenny hosted a January team of four volunteers who represented Ball Camp and Salem Baptist in Knoxville. Led by David Wells, CBF Tennessee’s Disaster Response Coordinator, the team assisted Chipola Family Ministries (CFM) in Marianna, Florida with electrical work.
In southeast North Carolina, Rev. Todd Padgett continues to coordinate the efforts of teams engaged in Hurricane Florence recovery efforts. In March, a group of 13 assisted three properties with recovery.
In late March, a tornado that struck Jonesboro, Arkansas left 22 people injured along with considerable property damage. In support of CBF Arkansas’ response efforts, CBF Disaster Response provided $4,000 to assist two Jonesboro congregations, FBC Jonesboro and Magnolia Road Baptist, with local tornado recovery efforts.
Additional tornadoes impacted wide areas of the Southeast over two Sundays in April. CBF Disaster Response is following up with CBF state organizations that are involved in local response efforts.
Preparations for the 2020 hurricane season
Meteorologists are predicting an active 2020 hurricane season with 18 named tropical systems and four major hurricanes. Alan Williams, CBF Disaster Response Specialist, is coordinating with CBF State Organization Volunteer Disaster Response Coordinators in Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina to have shower and equipment trailers in position and ready for deployment as needed.
CBF Disaster Response resources
Dr. Daynette Snead Perez, who serves as the CBF Disaster Response Resource and Training Contractor, has been developing technical materials for the CBF network to use for disaster preparation and response. These materials, some based on a resource written by South Main Baptist in Houston, provide guidance related to post-flood cleanup and insights on obtaining permits for repairs as well as FEMA/insurance considerations. Other documents being prepared include check lists for churches and households for disaster readiness. When complete, these materials will be accessible via the CBF Disaster Response webpage.
Additionally, a collaborative effort between CBF Florida and the Chaplaincy and Global Missions departments of CBF has developed a CBF Disaster Response Spiritual Care Manual that will be used for training purposes. This resource will help certify spiritual care providers who will be deployed, as needed, to disaster impacted locations.
CBF COVID-19 Response
CBF has also launched a special COVID-19 response that will enable emergency relief, in the form of food and other urgent essentials, to be provided to the most vulnerable in the U.S. and around the world, including refugees and immigrants. CBF Disaster Response has contributed $15,000 towards this fund, which is soliciting additional donations from individuals, churches and CBF state organizations. CBF of North Carolina also has pledged $10,000 in support.
Redeeming the time
Although it is frustrating for volunteer teams and members of the CBF Disaster Response team to wait out COVID-19, we are redeeming the time. We ask for your prayers as we use this opportunity to prepare to re-engage as soon as it is appropriate to do so.
Help provide urgent relief for families in crisis in places where CBF serves in the U.S. and around the world. Your special gift today will provide food and critical items for the most vulnerable families impacted by COVID-19. Give today at www.cbf.net/covidrelief.