by Joe Conway
FRESNO (BP) - California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Ministries currently has two teams deployed to serve victims of fires and flooding in Washington and Hawaii.
A team of 12 Californians is in Twisp, WA helping clean up after fires burned the area in August. A team of six who have advanced chainsaw training is working in the Puna District of the Big Island of Hawaii, removing downed trees after Tropical Storm Iselle struck Aug. 7.
National Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are on the job after massive flooding in Michigan affected tens of thousands of homes and businesses.
The three-county area around Warren, MI has been described by some as the nation's largest natural disaster that few people have heard about, largely because of other national and international headlines that overshadowed it in recent days.
Baptist State Convention of Michigan Disaster Relief director Wynn Williams said he expects the relief work to last for weeks. Assessments are ongoing, but more than 450 job requests already have been recorded for homes inundated with water from slow-moving rainstorms Aug. 11.
The North American Mission Board has dispatched a mobile command unit to help coordinate the response. Eddie Black-mon, NAMB SBDR coordinator, is assisting Williams in organizing the effort.
Fritz Wilson, executive director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief with NAMB, said the scope of the flooding and the size of the response needed have received little national media attention so far.
"The spiritual opportunity in Michigan calls for the kind of committed response Southern Baptists are known for in bringing help, healing and hope in the midst of crises," Wilson said. "God has been orchestrating circumstances in and around Detroit for more than a year. We need to respond to this opportunity to serve."
SBDR volunteers also are serving in Ferguson, MO. Missouri Baptist Convention SBDR director Dwaine Carter said volunteers have assisted with cleanup each day in Ferguson following riots and racial tension that erupted Aug. 9.
Meanwhile, national SBDR volunteers are engaged in active responses in Colorado, Hawaii, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, and in rebuild efforts in New York and New Jersey.
Cleanup work continues - with the Californians onsite - in response to record wildfires in Washington in the Carlton Complex fire, which claimed more than 350 homes, and two other major fires. Northwest Baptist Convention regional SBDR coordinator Paul Henry reported 52 ash-out projects already have been completed.
Hawaii-Pacific Baptist Convention volunteers have been assisting residents in the Keaau area southeast of Hilo, along with help from the California team. The area suffered heavy wind damage from Tropical Storm Iselle.
"There are a lot of fallen trees," Hawaii SBDR coordinator Darrell McCain said. "There are still about 1,000 homes without power in the area."
(Includes additional reporting from Holly Smith. For more information about California Disaster Relief visit www.csbc.com/disasterrelief