By Jeff Brumley
Members of the North American Baptist Fellowship’s Disaster Response Network, meeting in Texas this week, decided on a leadership structure they hope will provide greater continuity and flexibility to the group’s operations. The group also agreed its focus will become long-term recovery efforts and explore ways to become involved with international disaster-relief efforts.
Leadership is one of the topics that brought the most change for the NABF disaster responders. “Previously this group had an annual convener,” said NABF General Secretary George Bullard. “This time we chose to go with a lead team of three people.”
Elected for rotating terms were Don Sewell of Baylor Health Care System, Pauline Hurst of the National Baptist Convention of America and Marla Bearden of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Sewell will serve one year, Hurst two years and Bearden for three.
Bullard said the team will function in the leadership capacity previously held by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Harry Rowland, who served as convener for 13 months concluding in April.
The network consists of more than 20 Baptist organizations in the United States and Canada that seek to collaborate and support each other’s’ disaster-response efforts. Members include the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, American Baptist Churches USA and the National Baptist Convention USA.
Sixteen members met Tuesday and Wednesday in Dallas to discuss ways of improving coordination in the planning and execution of disaster response. Their next meeting is scheduled in March.
During a conference call Wednesday, participants identified long-term recovery as an area that holds the most promise for reaching disaster victims with the message and demonstration of God’s love. The more time and effort that Baptists spend in an area affected by disaster, the more time there is to build long-lasting relationships with victims, they said.
The members also discussed how to best handle untrained, unsolicited volunteers who show up at disaster scenes wanting to help or donate goods that are not needed.
Michael Julian, vice president for international aid with Buckner International, said one of the hardest things to do is to turn away people who appear at disaster sites without proper training and certifications, but it has to be done sometimes.