As Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast of Texas on Aug. 25, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) prepared to serve their neighbors in need.
“We had to be cautious and respectful of the boundaries that the National Guard set in the interest of public safety,” Oklahoma
Baptist DR Director Don Williams said. “Once we were allowed in, we set up incident command centers and got to work right away.”
As of Aug. 30, the area endured nine days of heavy rainfall totaling 50 inches, according to The Weather Channel. Only two Category 4 hurricanes have ever made landfall in the Texas Coastal Bend region, the most recent being 1961.
Through this devastating natural disaster, Oklahoma Baptists worked closely with Texas Baptists and other non-profit organizations in their relief efforts. On Mon., Aug. 28, Nicoma Park, First dispatched a DR shower and laundry trailer, which has private shower stalls, to Texas for volunteers and first-responders to use.
“Southern Baptists know how to do this for the long-haul,” Williams said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. We’re anticipating to send people down to Texas continuously for the next year to 18 months or two years, however long it takes.”
DR sent more than 30 volunteers from northeast Oklahoma to Houston on Wed. morning, Aug. 30.
Oklahoma Baptist DR leaders received the call for help from Texas Baptists on Tues. afternoon, Aug. 29, and launched from Sapulpa, First the next morning. The DR large feeding unit, through which volunteers can prepare as many as 20,000 meals a day, served near the Houston Convention Center later that day.
“Through our relief efforts, we want to bring help, healing and hope in a disaster,” Williams said. “Circumstances overwhelm people. They’ve lost their house and all of their possessions. So we want to come in and show them that not only is there physical healing, there is spiritual healing.”
The first group of volunteers will work for 7-9 days before additional Oklahoma Baptist volunteer crews arrive to relieve them of
their duties. DR has agreed to a 30-day service commitment, with future plans to serve as long as help is needed.
In addition to DR volunteers, Williams has plans to partner with all willing groups like Baptist Collegiate Ministries or youth groups in the near future for fall break and winter break mission trips.
Opportunities for all groups to serve on mud-out crews, chainsaw teams and other clean-up teams will be abundant in coming months. Mud-out crews go into homes that have been flooded and “take it down to the studs” by ripping out sheetrock, carpet, tile and all things damaged by water. In doing this, homeowners are relieved of the burden of paying someone to help repair their home.
Furthermore, DR will have construction crews as the area rebuilds following Hurricane Harvey. An incident command center was established in a surrounding Houston community where people will be sent to oversee operations and make sure all relief efforts run smoothly and function at full-capacity with the right resources.
“Through this disaster, we get to speak into those who are hurting and tell them that God is still in charge, God still loves them and cares for them, and that’s why He sent us to help them through this difficult time. That’s what Disaster Relief is all about,” Williams said. “Not only do we give physical hope and strength for today, but we also offer eternal hope.”
On a large DR trailer, it reads, ‘Bringing help, healing and hope,’ and that is what Oklahoma Baptists intend to do.
“Tragedy has struck our neighbors in Texas. The response to Hurricane Harvey will be long and hard and require our very best,” said Anthony Jordan, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma executive director-treasurer. “Oklahoma Baptists will answer the call to help. Please give now through Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, so we can serve others in their great hour of need.”
Williams said for those who wish to help, everyone can help by praying. Another way to help is to sign up for a Disaster Relief training. On Sept. 16, there will be a training for Baptist adults who wish to volunteer as a part of DR relief crews. The training will be held at Woodward, First, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Cost is $15, and lunch will be provided.
Another DR training will take place at Moore, First on Oct. 7 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $15 and lunch is included. Those attending these events are encouraged to pre-register online at www.OkDisasterHelp.org.
“Our disaster relief organization will help our neighbors in need. This response and relief effort won’t be short or easy, but with God’s help, every person who needs help will be served,” said Williams.
For the latest updates on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, or to make a tax-deductible donation to Oklahoma Baptist DR, visit www.OKDisasterHelp.org.