While I will say there are some, not many but some, Churches and individuals that are prepared for the unexpected and have developed a plan, for the most part I would say they don’t have a clue. Were you aware that you could go to the MTSBC.org website, from the Home page click on Sending, when the drop down menu comes up click on ministries, click on Disaster Relief and in that block click on “more” then go down to Forms & Documents. There you can find a Family Preparedness Disaster Relief Manual, a Church Preparedness Disaster Relief Manual and yes, even an Associational Disaster Relief Manual. Now if next Sunday or perhaps sometime during the week you could go by the Church office and ask to see the folder on Church Preparedness Disaster Relief, I would venture to say you won’t find one. Unfortunately, a lot of time, the mindset is we will worry about that when the time comes. However when the time does come you won’t have the luxury of time to formulating a plan.
Recently, at a Region V meeting in Salt Lake City, UT, which Montana is in Region V, it was noted that there was a Church Plant, I believe in Colorado, who had a young Pastor who was very Disaster Relief mission focused. Well in that town this Southern Baptist Church Plant was considered by and referred to by the “real” religious denominations as a “cult”. But the Lord was about to have a “teachable moment”. Sever flooding struck and while the Catholics and the Lutherans and the Later Day Saints were running around in their respective parking lots proclaiming, “Oh my God, What are we going to do now!” The Pastor from the little Southern Baptist Church Plant “cult” stepped forward with their Church Preparedness Disaster Relief Manual and almost single handedly, with the help of his small congregation, saved the day. Now they are no longer referred to as a “cult” but instead, if anything is going on in that town, the Southern Baptist are among the first people that are contacted for their help or opinion.
Most people are unaware that the North American Mission Board did not get into Disaster Relief until 1966, with their first deployment in 1967. We have grown nationwide now and have over 82,000 trained volunteers across the nation. Responding to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of call-outs per year across the nation and around the world in disasters. Now when it comes to non-governmental organizations assisting in disasters we Southern Baptist are ranked 3rd in the Nation with the American Red Cross (ARC) in first place followed by The Salvation Army (TSA) in second place followed closely by the Southern Baptist. We have a track record of response and success that leaves many older denominations, who have a relief effort, in our dust.
We in Montana have been very fortunate to have an Executive Director in Fred Hewett, who has the foresight to understand that all disasters are local. It’s not a matter of if, but when our services will be required. We have been able to update and build Disaster Relief Trailers that should cover most of our needs here in Montana, but that’s not to say we are restricted to just Montana. Probably one of our most used units is our 9-year-old Shower/Laundry Unit. Every year, if not deployed in a Disaster Relief deployment, it is utilized for Summer Mission Teams here in Montana. This year alone I’ve had to turn down three different Churches due to it having been requested during the same time frame already. Some Churches officially requesting it 12 months out! Our new Mud-Out & Recovery Unit’s first deployment was June of last year for flooding north of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Now Calgary, just the town, has a population of six million people while Montana was doing good to finally break one million last year Statewide! But Alberta had no equipment, no trained personnel. It was Georgia and Montana that answered the call. You should have seen the response when they saw our DR logo with Montana under it, “Your people came all this way to help us…for free!” The last day we were on the job our team stopped for a hot lunch and as I went to pay the bill at the check out a local gentleman who owned a heavy equipment company, that was working in the area, came up behind me and told the clerk, “Their money is no good here; I’ve got their bill.” God is not just good, He’s Great!
Currently we, the Montana SBC Disaster Relief, are still responding to the flooding that occurred on the Hi-Line in June of 2013. We have identified approximately 50+ homes that have/had sustained damage between Havre and Ft. Belknap, MT. Due to the extent of damages and the diversity of the different situations surrounding each home it became evident real quick that we in Montana didn’t have the necessary assets to properly address this disaster. We reached out to the North American Mission Board Disaster Relief in Alpharetta, Georgia for assistance and advice and as they have many times in the past they came through for us. It was estimated that we would need approximately $175,000.00 to bring Help, Healing and Hope to these people. NAMB committed $50,000.00 for personnel support and one of our partners with the Montana Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disaster (MT VOAD) The Salvation Army committed $125,000.00 for materials. So far we have had teams from Washington State, Idaho, Kansas and one team from Montana work on this project to-date, however we have commitments from Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Idaho in the upcoming months for more workers. I doubt if we finish this year before the cold weather drives us out, again. The fields are ripe to harvest, but the workers are few…
Now not that our plate was not full enough already, on the 7th of March of this year, while at the M-Pact Conference in Helena, two Pastors from Gallatin County, Curtis Crow and William Johnson both requested immediate assistance for flooding in Gallatin County. Flooding of this magnitude had not been seen in 100 years! Fortunately Pastor William Johnson was DR qualified and was of great service. Now as the Mud-Out & Recovery Unit was currently deployed at Pastor Bruce Plummer’s Montana Indian Ministries Camp at Ft. Belknap. We immediately had to retrieve it and bring it to Manhattan where the flooding was the worst. Now due to the design of the Unit we were able to “split” the Mud-Out portion from the Recovery equipment and return the trailer for the Recovery phase in Havre by two out of State collegiate teams. We were strung thin, however the Lord prevailed again!
My friends it is my sincere prayer that 2015 is a lot quieter year…I’m tired! But for now there is still much to accomplish. While we have made a lot of headway in repairing and upgrading our DR equipment and training, I’m still not satisfied that we where we need to be. Further while we may be able to just barely hold our own, we are almost surrounded by States that are much worse off than us. Our Canadian neighbors as well as the States to our East and South have little to no equipment nor the trained personnel to staff it. The biggest problem as I see it today is adequate funding. Money is tight for every ministry at this point. Whereas Disaster Relief use to have a percentage of the old Baker State Missions Offering, there are no provisions under the current Montana Missions Offering for this, or do we have a line in the State budget. We cannot use the dedicated funding from NAMB for the flooding other than for the flood. Our ability to respond to anything within our own borders could be very limited. We exist solely on love offerings from individuals and Churches. There is one day per year that is set-aside for Disaster Relief and that is the first Sunday in November. But disasters can’t read a calendar and they wait for no one!
Please, if your Church has a heart of service for your fellow man, don’t hesitate to give me a call and we will see if we can work some training in for your group. (In between call-outs!) Just pick up the phone and call 406-889-9720 or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You might also be interested in...
Montana Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
More Sending Team Resources