Volunteering for Disaster Relief - Word&Way

Volunteering for Disaster Relief


Baptist disaster relief volunteers are modern-day “Good Samaritans,” always prepared and ready to reach out to needy people whose lives have been turned upside down by unexpected disasters. These trained volunteers donate their time and energy, in Christ’s name, to help victims devastated by hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other catastrophes. They go to the communities most in need, working and sharing God’s love in meaningful and tangible ways.

Current Disaster Relief

Many volunteers from across the country are currently working in North Carolina, a state hit hard by Hurricane Florence. At the same time, others are serving Florida communities recently demolished by Hurricane Michael. The damage is great. The need for more volunteers is urgent.

Don Williams, state director for Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, noted disaster relief volunteers “provide health, hope and healing to those impacted.”

A Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team with the Baptist General Association of Virginia prepared meals that American Red Cross and The Salvation Army delivered. A Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team with the Baptist General Association of Virginia prepared meals that American Red Cross and The Salvation Army delivered. Photo by Adam DukesAs volunteers serve Hurricane Michael survivors, Gaylon Moss, disaster relief state director for the Missouri Baptist Convention asks Baptists to “please pray for the volunteers that participate that they will be Jesus’s hands, feet and voice to those in need. Pray also for the people affected that they will be safe and well during this trying time.” Moss previously led disaster relief efforts of North Carolina Baptist Men.

A volunteer working in North Carolina explains, “We’re here to help out and serve and love on these folks and give them a little comfort and help them get their lives in order.”

Yet, Steven Porter, global missions coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, noted the many recent disasters could result in people “experiencing fatigue due to the increasing frequency of these disasters” or “simply becoming numb to the news reports. He urged Baptists to keep helping.

“St. Basil the Great reportedly said, ‘The bread in my cupboard belongs to the poor,’” Porter said. “Perhaps we could add that the drywall in my shed or the extra $1,000 in our mission committee budget belongs to the folks suffering in the Carolinas, the Gulf Coast or Sulawesi, Indonesia.”

How Volunteers Serve

When disaster strikes an area of the United States, trained volunteers from Baptist churches affiliated with various state and national bodies go into immediate action, transporting food, equipment and recovery units to the most affected areas. Different teams of volunteers are trained to respond to different needs. For instance:

  • Chainsaw teams clear trees, brush and other obstructions from highways, public places and homeowners’ properties.
  • Forklift drivers move loads of needed supplies to the volunteer teams.
  • Mud-out teams remove shovel loads of mud, debris and filth from individuals’ flooded homes, cleaning and disinfecting walls and floors.
  • Mass feeding teams prepare thousands of home-cooked meals for those without power, distributing food to hungry victims and their families. Some volunteers wash thousands of dishes, readying them for the next mass feeding.
  • Volunteers in the shower unit clean the portable showers made available by the disaster relief for individuals without water to bathe.
  • Other volunteers wash victims’ clothes in disaster relief portable laundry units.
  • Temporary emergency childcare teams set up day care facilities, providing safe, clean environments for children so their parents can attend to necessary recovery tasks.
  • Volunteer chaplains work inside a “shockwave tent,” making themselves available to address victims’ spiritual needs, and helping people survive the initial emotional impact of the disaster.
  • Volunteers also work behind the scenes — communicating urgent needs, organizing cleanups and working in conjunction with the Red Cross and city officials.

Why do Baptists volunteer their valuable time and hard work to help those in need? Because as Tamara Parry of the MBC’s disaster relief team explains, “they truly are servants looking for opportunities to serve and share the love of Jesus

Ways to Support Disaster Relief

Several Baptist organizations actively engage in disaster relief following hurricanes and other natural and human disasters. Here are some of the groups and ways to donate or volunteer:

Denise George, author of 30 books, is co-author of the new Penguin Random House book “The Lost Eleven: The Forgotten Story of Black American Soldiers Brutally Massacred in World War II.” She is married to Dr. Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University.