By Rick Burnette
This past year of 2020 was the most challenging year I have experienced since beginning my role as the CBF Domestic Disaster Response Manager in 2018, due to the combination of COVID-19 and the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record.
We were relieved when the 2020 hurricane season finally faded way, having produced 31 tropical systems, 30 named storms and 13 hurricanes, six of which were major, including a record 12 storms that made landfall in the U.S.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 has not relented with continuing infections and a growing national death toll.
Looking back at 2020, it is a wonder that much of anything got done. But thanks to a dedicated network of CBF staff, state/regional organizations, and congregations – despite an expected shortfall in giving and minimal volunteer engagement – disaster response took place in numerous locations with other accomplishments as well.
Here is a summary of CBF Domestic Disaster Response activity during 2020:
- Hurricane Dorian recovery in the Bahamas continued, with Disaster Response assistance including volunteer recruitment having continued through February. With significant CBF funding, the Bahamian congregations were able to maintain recovery efforts through the end of the year with dozens of churches and homes repaired.
- Following March tornadoes, CBF Tennessee followed up with congregations and recovery needs in affected communities.
- CBF Arkansas, using CBF Disaster Response funds, initiated response efforts with congregations around Fayetteville following a tornado in April.
- In response to another April tornado, recovery efforts were handled by CBF South Carolina and partner churches in the upstate.
- An upgrade of the CBF Disaster Response website took place with major involvement by Daynette Snead Perez, CBF Disaster Response Resource and Spiritual Care Specialist, and Jeff Langford, Executive Coordinator of CBF Heartland. Besides offering opportunities for volunteering, praying and giving, the website makes available technical resources and other useful information related to disaster response.
- The CBF Disaster Response Spiritual Care Provider Training Manual is 95 percent complete thanks to involvement from Steven Porter, CBF Global Missions Coordinator, and Daynette Snead Perez.
- Maintenance and logistical management of CBF equipment and shower trailers were spearheaded by Alan Williams, CBF Disaster Response Specialist, with involvement from CBF state/regional organization coordinators and their disaster response coordinators, including Kenny Phillips, Ray Johnson and Ray Higgins.
- Recovery efforts related to flooding in the Rio Grande Valley due to Hurricane Hanna were carried out by CBF Texas/Southwest and affiliates with a large CBF Disaster Response grant.
- Response to Hurricanes Laura and Delta in the Lake Charles, Louisiana, area was initiated in partnership with local National Baptist Convention of America churches. Representatives from CBF Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida were involved with launching collaborative response efforts with CBF Arkansas providing access to one of its shower trailers. CBF Florida’s Kenny Phillips played a key on-the-ground role in transferring equipment/shower trailers and consulting with National Baptist partners.
- In partnership with the National Baptist Convention of America, with CBF Disaster Response funds and advisory services, LaConya Ceasar, was hired as a local response contractor for the Lake Charles area. Her responsibilities include placing and coordinating volunteer teams.
- In response to the launch of the CBF Cleanup Bucket Kit pilot project, Broadmoor Baptist (Baton Rouge) purchased materials for assembling scores of buckets for distribution in Lake Charles. They also put together additional buckets for Hurricane Sally response in the Florida Panhandle in collaboration with Second Baptist Little Rock and CBF Kentucky.
- CBF South Carolina and Tennessee, in addition to CBF Florida congregations, assembled and delivered dozens of bucket kits to the Florida Panhandle, all received and distributed by Kenny Phillips.
- CBF Alabama assembled and delivered tote boxes filled with household recovery supplies for Lake Charles households.
- A small matching grant was provided to Baptist Fellowship Northeast in response to damage resulting from Hurricane Isaias.
In addition, various CBF staff in Atlanta have worked behind the scenes to produce articles, blogs and CBF Gathering segments that spotlighted our disaster response efforts. Other staff handled the volunteer recruitment process.
Regardless of our locations and roles, the 2020 efforts were highly collaborative, cooperative and effective.
Now entering 2021, we continue to face various challenges, including COVID-19, a trend toward rapidly intensifying storms, and a CBF Disaster Response funding shortfall.
In the meantime, we invite you to visit the CBF Disaster Response website to be directed towards praying and giving opportunities. As COVID-19 begins to fade, we anticipate that many will volunteer in Lake Charles and elsewhere.
Let us move forward through 2021 in anticipation of what God will enable us to do together.