FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- As Hurricane Irene swirls toward the east coast with heavy rains whipped by 110 mile per hour winds, (www.weather.com/newscenter/tropical/) its potential to produce disastrous property damage prompts a deluge of news reports and a constant hum across social media.
Weather forecasters tired of delivering typical August reports of “hot and humid” eagerly break out their textbooks and graphic gizmos as suddenly all eyes are focused on them.
In the midst of this slowly developing potential disaster, Baptist relief agencies are moving response teams into position near enough to be there quickly, but far enough to be safe as the storm passes.
Dean Miller, who leads Virginia Baptist disaster response efforts, said all volunteers and leadership are on alert and all units are moving to positions that will enable an immediate response when the storm passes.
“Feeding, recovery, communications, crisis care chaplaincy and others are ready to respond,” he said. Several churches have been identified as response sites.
Charles Ray, who coordinates national disaster response for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from Little Rock, Ark., said CBF is asking state leaders to be prepared to offer assistance both to Virginia Baptist efforts and to North Carolina Baptist Men, which has become a nationally recognized relief agency. Miller said American Baptist Association (Missionary) is prepared to assist from its base in Georgia.
On a wider scale, Hurricane Irene already has blasted through the Caribbean and Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid for the Baptist World Alliance, as of Friday morning (Aug. 26) was waiting to hear from member churches about damages.
Irene passed mostly north and, apart from the Bahamas, the Caribbean was “not badly hit.”
As North Americans are consumed with the relentless movement of Irene toward the coast, Baptist World Aid, working through member conventions and churches, is still very active in the Horn of Africa, where food shortage puts people “in dire need.” CBF and Canadian Baptists have worked in Kenya for many years and continue in the face of constant threat.
Flooding in Bangladesh is almost annual, leaving “large numbers of people washed out and left homeless.”
While Japan’s government resisted international assistance after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Montacute said, “It’s becoming obvious the convention and the union do need resources.”
A roundtable for those who can provide relief will be held in Tokyo in September, he said.
Montacute recognizes that a seeming flood of disasters has made donors weary, but he said people continue to be generous and, “We have the resources for many things if we choose to use them in the right way.”
“People want to respond,” he said, citing Japanese Baptist churches sending relief funds for Philippine Baptist churches after disaster there, even as Japan was reeling from its own disaster.
“That’s a part of fraternal love,” he said.
Donors also are looking for long-term solutions, and he said work is nearing completion by Virginia Baptists and Hungarian Baptist Aid on a children’s center in Port au Prince, Haiti. It will accommodate 50 orphans with housing and a new neighborhood school and a community center that can be used for a church.
Norman Jameson is reporting and coordinating special projects for ABP on an interim basis. He is former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder.