An inside look at a Disaster Relief deployment

As Arkansas Baptists enter into the Dixie Jackson Missions Offering Season, we are reminded of all that God has done in our great state during this past year through the combined missions efforts of all of our churches. Disaster Relief (DR) is one of the many ministries supported through your gifts to Dixie Jackson.

Typically, we get to celebrate the results of this amazing ministry after the work is complete.  You see pictures and hear stories of how lives have been changed through salvations, tree removal, serving hot meals and more. You know all about the yellow shirts and their work, but have you ever wondered what it takes to make a deployment happen?  

This year, we have the unique opportunity to see our investment in missions at work in real time as Hurricane Laura prepares to make landfall. You are invited to join us for an inside look into the inner workings of a Disaster Relief deployment. Follow along as we detail the deployment process from beginning to end. 

Wednesday, August 19

Randy Garrett, Arkansas’ Director of Disaster Relief, monitors the weather channel and receives updates concerning Marco and Laura, two storms with the potential to turn into damaging hurricanes as they head towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Thursday, August 20

Garrett participates in a conference call with DR directors in the Region 4 states. This team made up of Garrett and his counterparts from Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and the two Baptist conventions of Texas, meets to discuss the potential storm and to make preliminary plans for a possible combined response effort. All six conventions stand ready to help and agree to commit their resources to assist in the effort. 

Saturday, August 22

Garrett contacts his state coordinators who serve as an advisory council for the DR director.  He brings this group of leaders up to date and encourages them to begin praying and making initial preparations for deployment. 

Sunday, August 23

Phone calls come in from across the state from volunteers requesting information about a potential deployment.  An email is sent to all credentialed volunteers thanking them for their concern, giving them updated information and reminding them to stay in contact with their unit leaders as plans move forward.   

Monday, August 24

Marco is officially downgraded to a tropical storm and a tropical depression before the storm finally fizzles out.  Laura is officially upgraded from a tropical storm to a Category 1* hurricane.

The Salvation Army calls to set up a partnership for the upcoming relief efforts. It is agreed that the Salvation Army will set up in Bryant, Arkansas at Indian Springs Baptist Church to work alongside Arkansas DR volunteers. 

At noon Garrett participates in a conference call with DR leaders from around the country. The meeting is led by National DR Director Sam Porter. 

Gibbie McMillan, state DR Director from Louisiana, shares that they have done all that can be done at this point in preparation. McMillan says that he takes comfort in knowing that the nationwide DR family stands ready to assist.  He says, “I know we are not alone. I know God is with us, but I sure do like seeing those yellow shirts out there as well.” 

Porter offers advice on preparing and getting units on standby.  The leaders are encouraged to follow COVID safety protocols as they enlist volunteers to help in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. He notes that COVID-19 brings new challenges to DR work. In spite of the challenges, Porter notes that “nothing stops hurricanes.”  He reminds the leaders that they are here to serve others in the midst of disasters and to share the love of Jesus.  “God’s called you and gifted you. If He’s called you He’ll also equip you to carry out what He’s called you to do.” 

After the conference call an email is sent to all unit leaders in the state, providing updated information and encouraging them to keep in touch with their team of volunteers and to pray as they begin making preparations for deployment. 

Tuesday, August 25

Garrett talks with Gibbie McMillan to plan logistics for deployment in Louisiana. Arkansas will be called upon to set up their Incident Command Unit in Lake Charles, Louisiana.   

Garrett makes calls to Arkansas churches to help set up logistics for a response within the state. 

That afternoon, Garrett gets a call from Gaylon Moss, DR Director in Missouri, requesting a place to stage their team on Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Garrett sends out the following hurricane update to leadership at the ABSC:

Good morning. 

Just wanted to bring everyone up to date on what we are doing going forward with Hurricane Laura.

We have been asked by the Louisiana DR director to stand up an incident management team in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The plan is to send our IMT unit to Lake Charles on Sunday. The team will consist of 4/5 people. We will have total control of the event in Louisiana. Other IMT teams from other states will report to us.

Now to Arkansas. We have established two sites here in Arkansas to work out of in the event there are needs here. We are utilizing Indian Springs Baptist Church in Bryant and Cornerstone Church in Texarkana. At these sites we will be working with the Salvation Army to provide meals to the public. The Salvation Army will purchase the food, we will cook the food, and they will deliver the food.

The last report that I saw this morning is that Laura will reach a cat 4 hurricane before making landfall early tomorrow morning. The storm surge is predicted to be 10 to 12 feet along the Louisiana coast. I can assure you that we will not put any of our volunteers in harm’s way until we know it is safe. This storm has all the characteristics of what happened during Hurricane Rita 15 years ago. 

I will keep you posted daily as to what’s going on. Please pray for all the DR volunteers and survivors as we go forward with this disaster.

* Laura has since been upgraded to a category 4 hurricane.

Because you pray and give to the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Mission Offering, Disaster Relief teams are trained, equipped and ready to go as soon as they are needed. Stay tuned for more information as we follow our DR teams during this deployment process. For updated information check out our websites: www.abscdisasterrelief.org; www.absc.org; www.arkansasbaptist.org.

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