The outpouring of love and support for Oklahoma Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (OKSBDR) efforts continues more than a month after devastating storms tore through central Oklahoma May 19-20.
As prayers, calls, notes and letters of well-wishes have poured in, a more tangible evidence of the nation’s support evidenced itself Tue., June 18 when donations to OKSBDR surpassed the $3 million mark. Total gifts to the DR fund were $3,241,894.42, including $832,751.63 in online gifts from 5,822 donors, $1,833,830.02 in checks from 2,195 other donors and $575,312.77 from BGCO churches.
More than one-third of the total gifts, $1,027,750, has gone directly to those affected by the storms and those who have helped since, including $24,000 to 49 first responders, said Paul Bettis, BGCO chaplaincy specialist.
Checks also have gone to individuals who lost homes or suffered damage, $61,600 to churches in Carney, McLoud, Newcastle, Moore, Oklahoma City, Prague and Tecumseh which hosted shelters for expenses, four Oklahoma City area churches that suffered flood damage, individuals in LeFlore and North Canadian associations who had flood damage in their homes, and assistance to four families to arrange funerals for deceased family members whose bodies were returned to Guatemala for burial.
Bettis said approximately 25 chaplains each day were on the field following the storms in the Moore area. Chaplains have made 10,337 contacts, prayed with 5,029 people, given away 5,455 Bibles and 1,267 tracts, made 2,046 gospel presentations and recorded 47 professions faith and 44 other decisions.
From the first moments of the statewide relief effort, the OKSBDR team has been working to restore the lives of their neighbors, family and friends.
In the weeks following the storm, the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief Incident Command Center received 1,296 requests for help from families needing assistance. So far, the organization has fulfilled 1,157 of those jobs, and is working diligently to see that the remaining needs are met.
“The response from our community and from our volunteers has been overwhelming,” said Sam Porter, BGCO disaster relief director. “Our team has been working nonstop since the relief effort began, but the real shining light here is the faith and tenacity of those who have been affected by these storms.”
Newcastle resident Elaine Thomasson told the story of a friend who had received desperately-needed help from the BGCO.
“My friend lives in a small group home and is the caretaker for three very handicapped young men who need constant care,” Thomasson said. “Within 24 hours of asking for help, there were eight BGCO workers at her house working on tree removal and other home repairs. One of the workers was a chainsaw artist and even cut the stump of a tree into a cross, which became a symbol of hope for the victims.
“This young man carving the cross was a gift from God, and proof that these workers are here being the Hands of Christ,” Thomasson said.
Specifically, BGCO volunteers in two dozen teams with heavy machinery have been clearing debris for homeowners, assisting in flood recovery and moving debris for FEMA pick-up and more. In addition, the BGCO has served 175,745 meals to relief workers and victims since May 20.
“The outstanding faith of Oklahomans in times of trial is what keeps us going,” Porter said. “We will keep pushing until we complete the task at hand, until every Oklahoman feels at home again.”