Hurricane Laura’s damaging foray through Louisiana and parts of Texas is inspiring faith-based collaboration in disaster response efforts that are complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Representatives of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and National Baptist Convention of America International plan to meet via Zoom Aug. 28 to discuss collaborative efforts to help storm victims, said Rick Burnette, domestic disaster response coordinator for CBF.
Hurricane Laura was a Category 4 storm when it made landfall around 1 a.m. Aug. 27 in southern Louisiana about 30 miles east of the Texas state line. It brought damaging winds and flooding to the region as the system moved north into Arkansas before bending eastward.
The National Baptist Convention has a large presence of churches around Lake Charles, an area hit especially hard by Hurricane Laura, Burnette said.
CBF issued an appeal for financial contributions and prayer as it worked to coordinate the response efforts of the Fellowship’s state groups in Louisiana and Texas.
As of late Thursday afternoon, Burnette said he had not learned of damage to any CBF churches. “But I haven’t heard from any of the pastors yet from Shreveport and Baton Rouge.”
Concerns about the Beaumont and Galveston areas of Texas have yet to prove founded.
“They have missed the brunt of it,” he said. “But we often learn about things days and weeks beyond the event.”
CBF Texas and Fellowship Southwest are continuing their efforts of supporting victims of Hurricane Hanna, which devastated portions of the Rio Grande Valley in July.
Due to concerns about the pandemic, however, that response did not include the usual influx of volunteers. Instead, food and material were provided to local ministries aiding Hanna’s victims.
That ongoing struggle coupled with Laura conspired to create what Fellowship Southwest described as “a hard week.”
It was a week that included Rio Grande residents waiting for their homes to be repaired and rebuilt while watching Hurricane Laura menace the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, the CBF ministry said in a blog post.
“On top of it all, COVID-19 impedes outsiders’ ability to provide hands-on support for storm victims — as well as financial support that typically rides in with volunteers.”
Burnette said it remains to be seen if that also will be the case after Laura. “We shall see in Louisiana. COVID is the complicating factor, and we anticipate fewer volunteers.”
One solution may be to more actively seek responders from around the impacted areas, he added. “We want localized volunteering if possible where people can make day trips instead of staying in shelters.”
In the week before the hurricane made landfall, CBF prepositioned tool and shower trailers and other materials to assist local response efforts. The intent is to keep the response effort as local as possible.