Disaster Relief serves after Hurricane Laura

Oct 21, 2020

DR team prays with a family.

By Irene A. Harkleroad

While people in the path of hurricanes, floods, and fires are packing to leave the area, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers are packing to go there. They make arrangements for families and pets, cancel appointments, mentally review their training and ultimately meet up with the caravan of equipment and fellow volunteers to head into the uncertainty of what awaits. They are heroes on the way to provide hope and healing.

From Sept. 8 to Oct. 6, in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams provided showers, laundry service, meals, tree removal, damage assessments, chaplaincy services and evangelism.

The shower and laundry trailer was deployed to Open Door Church, Ragley, Louisiana, where residents could get meals prepared by the church and drop off their laundry.

The first chainsaw team was housed at First Baptist Church in Mauriceville, Texas, and worked in DeRidder (along with the shower unit), Sulfur and Vinton, Louisiana.

When disaster relief leaders consolidated small sites, the Arizona team and equipment were relocated to Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Trinity housed disaster relief workers including Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from several states, the Red Cross and law enforcement.

“Two mass feeding units (not from Arizona) had provided up to 18,500 meals per day to the public, and Trinity provided meals for the chainsaw teams,” said Patty Kirchner, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief interim director. “When those units shut down on Sept. 26, our Arizona team of four, with help from ‘spontaneous untrained volunteers’ or SUVs, prepared 2,200 meals.” More than 279,000 meals were prepared at the Lake Charles site.

“There’s been an immense amount of work completed by [Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief] volunteers from several states,” Kirchner said. “Coordinated disaster relief teams completed over 1,100 jobs out of Lake Charles and 200 jobs out of Mauriceville.”

On Oct. 6, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief had a shower unit, feeding team and two chainsaw teams on site. That day, all disaster relief workers and equipment were ordered to return to Mauriceville, Texas, to avoid damage from Hurricane Delta. The teams were put on hold for future deployment based on the conditions after the storm and the availability of volunteers.

“Our Arizona volunteers are pretty much used up,” Kirchner said. “We need more people. Some are going on their third or fourth week. That’s too much.

“In a way you begin to get disaster fatigue,” Kirchner continued. “You can look at the big picture and see the immensity of it; there probably wasn’t a house or a building in Lake Charles that wasn’t damaged. But when you begin to deal with individuals, it just hurts your heart, because you know you can’t fix it for them. That’s the hard part of this. You can’t fix it all, but we do what we can. God has to sort it out.’

For information about Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, for a volunteer application or to give to disaster relief, go to azsbc.org/disaster-relief/.

Follow “Arizona SBC Disaster Relief” and “Arizona SBC Disaster Relief – Yuma Rapid Response Unit” on Facebook to keep up with disaster relief news.

By the numbers

Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief service in Louisiana and Texas following Hurricane Laura:

Volunteers 29

Volunteer days 269

Volunteer hours 2,247

Professions of faith 1

Gospel presentations 45

Bibles distributed 181

Volunteer meals 503

Community meals 2,200

Showers 134

Loads of laundry 261

Chainsaw jobs 26

Home damage assessments 107

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