House with Debris

When floodwaters devastate a home, much of the drywall and furniture becomes unsalvageably damaged. Disaster relief volunteers aid homeowners by removing damaged goods and other storm debris before they apply mold remediation so that the recovery can begin.

NASHVILLE (BNM) - New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers worked alongside DR volunteers from other states to provide assistance and share the Gospel in 2019. NMBDR responses have already begun in 2020, as well.

On June 2, the Southern Baptist Convention released its 2020 Book of Reports. It usually distributes the reports to messengers at its Annual Meeting. This year's publication became available just before the online event SBC Advance. They recount SBC agencies' work during 2019. The book provides details not covered in leaders' verbal presentations to the convention. Within the reports, the North American Mission Board summarized the 2019 activities of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Disaster Relief is a voluntary partnership between churches, associations, state conventions and NAMB's SBDR team. 

SBDR's 2019 combined efforts mobilized over 7,000 volunteers from 39 of 42 state conventions. Those volunteers served for a collected total of 50,988 days (416,585 hours). SBDR offered assistance to 45,772 people. Volunteers also provided 2,289,315 meals for disaster survivors and workers.

The NAMB team coordinates efforts for national disaster responses. In smaller responses, state conventions usually take the lead. NAMB said the partnership aims "to provide help, healing and hope for disaster survivors and impacted churches and communities." Amid SBDR's practical ministry, recipients and volunteers connect in spiritual conversations. In those conversations, SBDR volunteers shared the Gospel 4,167 times, resulting in 916 reported salvations.

New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief's work is part of SBDR's summary numbers. Activity by New Mexico volunteers resulted in 62 Gospel presentations and 13 salvations. NMBDR teams made 334 relief contacts in their 664 volunteer-days. Those days translate into 5,532 hours of compassion ministry.

NMBDR activity included serving 4,951 meals. Its teams conducted 10 DR assessments and completed seven flood cleanup jobs, five chainsaw jobs, one debris removal job and two temporary roofing jobs. DR volunteers also cared for 147 children.

NMBDR deployed childcare teams to both Army and National Guard requests, multiple times. Its teams participated in a Dexter house fire cleanup. They assisted immigrants in El Paso, Texas, and Albuquerque. Tornado recovery drew them to Hagerman, Dexter, Muskogee, Oklahoma, and San Augustine, Texas. In Las Cruces and Roswell, they supported medical relief efforts. In Nederland, Texas, and Iowa, they helped with flood recovery. NMBDR teams also assisted with the New Mexico Evangelism Conference.

NMBDR deploys trained teams with and without their mobile resources. Volunteers can provide childcare and chaplaincy ministry, help with cleanup, staff feeding crews, operate laundry and shower resources, and provide incident management. They can also take New Mexico's several mobile resources into a disaster zone. Those include a childcare trailer, a mobile communications center, two mobile kitchens, a shower and laundry trailer, and three trailers equipped for cleanup. 

Ira Shelton is the Baptist Convention of New Mexico's state disaster relief director. Reflecting on the 2019 work, he said, "I was very pleased, very happy. We were able to make a good impact in the areas we went in. We have an excellent reputation. We may be small in number, but [in] the work that we do, we are respected." The Baptist New Mexican also asked him why DR ministries are valuable. "We are able to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ during times of disaster. … It's all about people," he said. "For those who don't know Jesus, God opens the door so they can introduce them to Jesus Christ."

New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief ministry has already been active in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, NMBDR volunteers have boxed and sent 60,000 meals, so far. "That's no small job," Shelton said. At the time of this report, DR volunteers were still working with churches and others to deliver food to shut-ins in Las Cruces, too. "It's touching those people and showing them the love of Jesus Christ," Shelton said.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is an outreach of Send Relief, Southern Baptists' compassion ministry organization. Send Relief, initially formed by NAMB, became a global compassion ministry in early 2020. Baptist Global Response, an international relief partner with the International Mission Board, ceased operations and transitioned its work to the IMB. In turn, IMB approached NAMB about combining national and world compassion ministries under one organization. On February 18, the SBC Executive Committee announced the new combined effort. The two mission boards jointly oversee Send Relief operations.

SBDR mobilizes trained volunteers to assist official relief efforts during national and regional disasters. All volunteers receive general DR training. Some activities also require additional specialized training. SBDR routinely mobilizes one of the largest groups of volunteer Disaster Relief responders in the United States. Nationally, it works with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, the Red Cross, and other responding agencies during disasters.

Kevin Parker is editor of the Baptist New Mexican news journal and GoBNM.com, news and information outlets for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

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