Above: Jason Yarbrough, new state disaster relief director for Oklahoma Baptists, talks with fellow Disaster Relief team members Nancy Charlton, left, of Union City, First, and Teri Fuller of Medicine Park, First, during a break at the annual SBDR roundtable Jan. 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla. Yarbrough was one of 38 state SBDR directors who attended the roundtable. Photo by Laura Sikes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)—Jason Yarbrough kicked off his first year as Oklahoma Baptists state disaster relief director by attending the annual Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) roundtable Jan. 24-26 at Jacksonville, Fla., North Jacksonville.

Yarbrough was one of 38 state SBDR directors, out of 42 state Baptist conventions, who gathered to review the past year’s work and to discuss plans for the future. The directors joined with about 200 leaders and volunteers who took part in committee meetings and a variety of training and information sessions.

Former pastor of 11 years of Glenpool, First, Yarbrough just began serving as state DR director Jan. 1. He attended the new state directors’ orientation breakout group at his very first roundtable.

Yarbrough is looking forward to serving and to future opportunities with SBDR.

“I will key in on building relationships with our pastors, directors of missions and associations and share with our local churches to come and be a part of us,” he said.

Many shared in the spirit of Yarbrough’s enthusiasm, such as fellow state director Scottie Stice, SBDR director for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and outgoing chair of the SBDR’s steering committee.

Stice is excited about the strengthening of relationships between the state leaders and national leaders such as Send Relief, the joint compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. Send Relief comes alongside SBDR efforts and provides recovery resources and food to support its ministries to disaster survivors.

“We’ve got the best relationships now since I’ve been in DR,” said Stice, who began serving in disaster relief in 1984 with Texas Baptist Men.

“Our main goal is for continued growth of the partnerships we already have,” said Stice, who has served for the past three years on SBDR’s steering committee. He has served as state director of disaster relief for SBTC since 2014.

Those partnerships were exemplified, Stice said, in the SBDR’s response after Hurricane Ian hit Florida.

“All resources from our state are available for Florida, and I’m looking for Florida to have a win,” he said.

Send Relief’s crisis response director Coy Webb agreed and said the roundtable meeting was very positive. He looks forward to growing current partnerships and to building on SBDR’s rich legacy.

“The future is bright. We are in a great time. Our unity is as strong as it’s ever been,” Webb said.

“We’re growing in our understanding in how we work best together, and God is doing some really good things.”

Webb joined the feeding committee meeting which was attended by about 50 roundtable participants who came from all six SBDR regions with representatives from several states.

Karen Smith, SBDR feeding committee national chair, led the group.

“This is the biggest committee meeting we’ve had since I’ve come to a roundtable,” said Smith, who has attended about 16 roundtables. Smith, a member of Waynesburg, Ky., Pleasant View, is also feeding coordinator of Kentucky Baptist SBDR and has been a volunteer for 28 years.

The feeding committee is working on a more precise plan to use all the equipment such as forklifts, freezer trailers, kitchens and dry storage that God has provided to state conventions, she said.

“I came away from our committee meeting, workshops and our roundtable itself with a sense of unity to do God’s work together,” Smith said. “We are ready to go when He calls.”

Clara Hohmann, national feeding coordinator for region 1 (West), was pleased about the group’s plans.

“We are going to be stepping out in faith and will do more in SBDR, especially with feeding, and have more personal contact (during responses),” said Hohmann, a member of Odgen, Utah, Redemption.

The Rapid/Quick strike response to disaster session also had a high attendance with all six SDBR regions represented by several states from North Carolina, Alaska and Vermont to Hawaii.

Dwain Carter, director of Mobilization and Disaster Relief of Georgia SBDR, led the group of about 50 who listened to presentations from regional leaders.

The group discussed all types of responses – mass flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.

“Mass flooding will be an event that every state sooner or later will experience,” Carter said.

But state director Dennis Belz of Colorado Baptist Disaster Relief reminded volunteers to be ready to respond to all types of situations, even unexpected and out-of-the-box ones.

For example, he said his SBDR group in Denver is now considered “experts” at graffiti removal after helping with cleanup after civil unrest in the city in 2020.

“(The cleanup) gave us an opportunity to get in the community and share the Gospel,” said Belz, a member of Boulder, Colo., Reclamation.

Carter also encouraged participants not to shy away from the unusual response.

“Everything we do is about bringing the Gospel,” he said.

To cap off the event, volunteers were honored at an awards banquet. Several awards were given for distinguished service, including the Robert E. Dixon Lifetime Service award and the Joel W. Phillips Outstanding Achievement award.

Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention expressed his appreciation to the group for SBDR’s response to Hurricane Ian when it devastated southwest Florida in September.

SBDR volunteers gave 248,000 hours and served 735,000 meals, Green said.

“You came, and you came big, and you helped us,” Green said. “You brought the love and compassion of Christ, and we thank you.”

Green shared a message from Phil. 3:12-14, in which Paul charges the faithful to keep pressing toward the goal.

“I say ‘thank you,’ tonight, because I know you keep pressing,” he said.

New England SBDR volunteer Edward Lucas, Southern Vermont Regional coordinator, left the dinner with a big smile.

“I loved being here for the training and the fellowship. It’s like family,” he said.