Florida Baptists Gear Up for ‘Long-Haul’ Response to Hurricane Irma
Michael Ireland - Assist News
The Greater Orlando Baptist Association reports its office in Orlando is currently without power in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The Association staff are among an estimated 1.5 million people without power across Florida following the destruction of the storm.
“Our staff will be working from their homes until power is restored. Currently, we are in assessment stage. We are in the process of contacting all of our churches to see which churches have power, which churches have needs and which churches can offer help,” said Mark Weible, GOBA Church Planting Director, in a ministry update.
“We are looking at a long recovery period in Orlando and all across Florida. Electricity will likely be out for several days or even weeks. We need volunteer groups to help with clean-up and recovery. We also need mobile kitchens to cook and serve hot meals. If you are a trained Disaster Relief Volunteer, please check with your local unit leader for deployment.”
If you have not been trained and credentialed, you can be a part of a day volunteer group with your church. For more information, visit www.flbaptist.org/day-volunteer.
Weible added: “We have set up a volunteer website at www.vol.today. We will be posting needs and opportunities there as we become aware of them.”
For information about some free online tools that can help you to pray for and serve your neighbors, go to www.goba.org/how-to-help-your-neighbors-after-the-storm . The association said local congregations can help by emailing their church’s situation to Ashleigh Cheyney at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Weible may be contacted by cell at: (407) 461-3155.
Meanwhile, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains made plans to deploy following devastation from Hurricane Irma.
Crisis-trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team were slated to deploy to the Southeastern U.S. in the wake of destruction left by Hurricane Irma, which has been regarded as one of the largest recorded storms in history. Early assessments estimate coastal communities in Florida will experience catastrophic damage similar to what has already been seen across the Caribbean.
Hurricane Irma vacillated then pummeled Florida in a 400-mile wide swath of torrential wind and rai, losing and gaining strength. However, in a state that is home to more than 20 million Americans, Florida Gov. Rick Scott earlier warned, “All Floridians should prepare to evacuate.” Coastal regions of Georgia and South Carolina are also under mandatory evacuation.
“The destructive power of Hurricane Irma, especially on the immediate heels of Hurricane Harvey, reminds us of how fragile our lives really are,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
“I ask you to join us in praying for all of those who are in the path of this storm, many of whom will spend months or years – perhaps even the rest of their lives – trying to work through the physical and emotional suffering they will endure. We’ll be there to offer the hope and comfort of Jesus Christ as they begin to find their ‘new normal.’”
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team will continue to monitor Hurricane Irma as it churned toward Florida and into the southeastern United States. In preparation, they have been in communication with all of the crisis-trained chaplains living in Florida, and have identified more than 100 chaplains—living outside of the projected hurricane path — who are on standby to deploy once the storm has passed, water has receded and areas are declared safe to enter.
With significant ministry resources already committed in Texas following Hurricane Harvey, a Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Mobile Ministry Center based out of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Canadian office in Calgary, Canada, was en-route to North Carolina. The team will be staged for deployment alongside Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian disaster relief organization also headed by Franklin Graham. Together the two ministries will address the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those who have been affected.
With all eyes now on Irma, there were no plans to reduce the presence of chaplains in Texas where over 100 chaplains are currently ministering to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team was developed by Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It has since grown into an international network of chaplains in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia who are specifically trained to deal with crisis situations. They have deployed to more than 260 disaster sites, including shootings, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes.
For more information on the ministry, including videos, photos, news articles and an interactive map of former and current deployments, visit www.billygraham.org/rrt Updates can also be found at www.facebook.com/RRTChaplains .
And in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, while conducting salvage work among the debris Hurricane Harvey left behind, Israeli rescue workers stumbled upon an extraordinary discovery.
World Israel News (https://worldisraelnews.com) reports a 12-member team of volunteers from the Israel-based ZAKA search and rescue organization is on the ground in Houston, Texas, helping both the Jewish and Christian communities in the area devastated by Hurricane Harvey.
ZAKA, which is recognized by the United Nations as an international humanitarian volunteer organization, is known for its expertise in search, rescue and recovery in natural disasters and terror attacks around the world.
The volunteers engaged in work to assist the communities in any way needed, from clearing debris to offering assistance with food deliveries.
“As a humanitarian organization, we help all those in need, regardless of religion, race or gender,” stated ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav. He noted that some recipients of the assistance were excited by the fact the team was from the Holy Land.
As part of their humanitarian clean-up campaign, ZAKA members were sent by Pastor Becky Keenan from the Gulf Meadows Church to help clear the homes of members of her congregation.
It was almost a week after the hurricane flooded his home when Adrian, one of the victims, could finally return. “The moisture had turned the house into a swampland,” he explained to Joshua Wander, one of the ZAKA Israel volunteers.
The only items in the home miraculously untouched by the flood damage were his prized library of Jewish interlinear Hebrew/English texts and Bibles. “All my secular books were destroyed, but the pages of these books are still dry, still usable and without any mold.”
Adrian studies the texts to better understand the Jewish people and to seek “cohesion between Jewish and Christian communities.” “We are trying to build a bridge here,” he explained.
Meshi-Zahav expressed pride in the hard physical work the volunteers are doing for everyone in need in Houston.
“Our sages tell us that God created man in his image. Not just Jews, but all men,” he said, underscoring that the Christian community in the US is very supportive of Israel and that he was pleased that ZAKA is able to bring help from the Holy Land when it is most needed.
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