Baptists in US respond to disasters

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam has called upon Baptists around the world to offer prayer and support to the United States in the wake of a series of natural disasters that have been affecting the North American country.

Large areas of the US South and Midwest were flooded in the months of April and May by the Mississippi river and its tributaries, covering towns and cities in the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, flooding thousands of homes. The flooding and associated storms have claimed more than 380 lives in seven states.

Hundreds of tornados in several states killed several hundred persons and caused widespread damage, mainly in the Southeastern and Midwest US. Large areas of the state of Alabama and the city of Joplin in Missouri were among the worst affected.

Callam stated that “It is our responsibility as Baptist Christians to share the pain of all who suffer and to be in solidarity with them.” He noted that “sections of the United states have suffered greatly from a series of tornados and flooding in recent weeks. As Baptists, it is our responsibility to pray and to help.”

Baptists across the US have responded to the series of natural disasters. Groups associated with the North American Baptist Fellowship’s (NABF) Disaster Response Network have traveled into areas affected by the deadly tornados and floods.

The NABF is one of six regional fellowships of the BWA.

David Goatley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention and president of the NABF, said partner churches and organizations have been asked to “gather resources.” Samuel Tolbert Jr., president of the Louisiana Home and Foreign Missions Baptist State Convention is working closely with Lott Carey to assess immediate needs and to mobilize intermediate response to help families that have been affected.

Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men, who was a moving force behind the formation of the NABF disaster response effort, said his group is responding to tornados in North Carolina and Alabama.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has coordinated volunteers in two staging areas in Alabama following tornados and flooding in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Reid Doster of the state of Louisiana is serving as disaster response coordinator in the city of Joplin for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri, assisting teams with cleanup efforts.

Personnel from the Office of Disaster Management of the National Baptist Convention, USA, visited disaster zones in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, both in Alabama, and have, in partnership with The American Red Cross, helped with the delivery of goods and services.

American Baptist Churches USA’s Home Mission Societies are receiving donations and have made commitments to Joplin and Tuscaloosa. The group had previously made donations to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, that was badly damaged by a tornado.

Other BWA member organizations connected with the NABF Disaster Response Network that are currently responding to various disasters are Converge Worldwide, the North American Baptist Conference, Texas Baptists, the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

“It is responses such as these that demonstrate the love and compassion of God in Christ,” Callam stated. “We assure our Baptist brothers and sisters in the United States, and indeed all Americans, that Baptists everywhere are joining you in prayer.”