By Jeff Brumley
What is now a trickle of moderate and progressive Baptist relief workers into hurricane-impacted areas of Louisiana will increase to a steady stream once long-term recovery needs are identified, Baptist disaster-response coordinators said Sept. 5.
On Sunday, a team of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and North American Baptist Fellowship relief planners completed a three-day damage assessment tour along a 300-mile-wide zone stretching from the Florida panhandle to Louisiana, said Charles Ray, CBF’s U.S. disaster-response coordinator.
Working from a self-contained mobile relief unit, they also provided immediate care in the form of ice, water and food to 30 families stranded by flooding caused by Hurricane Isaac, Ray said.
Operations are being established in LaPlace, La., one of the areas hardest-hit by Isaac. A shower trailer is being sent and clean-up crews also are on the way, he said.
CBF is using donated funds left over from its 2005 Hurricane Katrina response to kick-start post-Isaac operations in Louisiana, while an appeal is being made for donations to finance long-term recovery efforts, Ray said.
More volunteers will be sought once the long-term recovery needs are identified, he added.
Harry Rowland, a CBF official and elected leader of the NABF’s coordinated disaster-response program, said moderate Baptist organizations are working to improve coordination in the wake of natural disasters. He also recognized the frustration some feel that they are not going in sooner with more, as first responders like the SBC and Salvation Army do.
“We are not a large movement,” Rowland said. “We are not the biggest thing out there, but together we can put a large footprint down.”
Rowland said they did so after Hurricane Katrina and after the massive Haiti earthquake in 2010. In both cases, moderate Baptists from around the world arrived to perform long-term cleanup and infrastructure rebuilding. Those efforts continued months and years after the initial event, he said, adding the same will be done in Louisiana after Isaac.
“We want to take an area and stay with it long term,” Rowland said. “We may not turn on the lights, but we will likely be the ones to turn the lights off.”
Ray said LaPlace will be the epicenter of that long-term effort and CBF has established a website where ongoing relief projects, and calls for money and volunteers, will be shared.
“We are prepared for going in and preparing muck-out operations and helping get homes cleaned out,” Ray said. “Funds willing and people willing, we will be there the rest of this year and most of next.”