DECATUR, Ga. (CBF) — Disaster response and state/regional leaders of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship gathered in Lake Charles, Louisiana, to assess damage wrought by Hurricane Laura and plan for long-term recovery efforts in collaboration with the National Baptist Convention of America and its president, Samuel Tolbert, Jr.
Tolbert, who also serves as president of the North American Baptist Fellowship of which both CBF and NBCA are part, hosted CBF leaders Rick Burnette (CBF Disaster Response), Jason Coker (CBF Mississippi), Kyle Kelley (CBF Louisiana) and Kenny Phillips (CBF Florida Disaster Response) at Greater St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Lake Charles. Tolbert has served as pastor for more than 30 years at that church in a city hit hard earlier this week by Laura.
The leaders began developing plans for a long-term recovery response which will receive volunteer teams with Greater St. Mary’s ministry center serving as host site for the CBF-NBCA collaboration. Plans were made to procure an industrial generator for Greater St. Mary’s, which suffered moderate damage during the storm and remains without power. Additionally, CBF Disaster Response plans to hire a local response contractor to guide the response at the recommendation of NBCA.
Burnette noted that there is significant clean-up work to be done in the near term and that while 90-plus percent of residents were able to evacuate, many have not yet returned to Lake Charles. Financial support is also needed to purchase materials and supplies for the recovery efforts as well as gift cards to assist households with meeting essential needs, he added.
CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley emphasized that Hurricane Laura left “significant damage and devastation” in and around Lake Charles.
“As our Fellowship seeks opportunities to participate in recovery and restoration in Louisiana, we are grateful for our partnership with Dr. Samuel Tolbert and the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc.,” Baxley said. “National Baptists and Cooperative Baptists have served together before not only in disaster response but also in hearing the Prophet Micah’s call that we do justice as we are seeking racial justice together. Sam is a gifted pastor, visionary leader, and good friend. We are eager to be supportive of the efforts of National Baptists toward recovery and healing in the wake of this storm, and we pray that in seeking that recovery we will further our shared desire for racial justice as well.”
CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter said the long-term recovery efforts offer an important opportunity to “heal racial wounds.”
“Our collaboration with National Baptists in Louisiana affords CBF the opportunity not only to help neighbors recover from a storm but also to work toward the healing of racial wounds that have done more damage to our country and the body of Christ than any hurricane,” Porter said. “It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to ‘bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.’”
“Such work invites us to bend our knees in prayer, roll up our sleeves to work, and open our wallets to give. We need all three elements to mount a faithful and effective response to Hurricane Laura,” Porter added. “Not all of us can go to a disaster during a pandemic, but surely all of us can pray and many of us can give.”