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Alabama Baptists encouraged to be prepared, equipped for disasterscomment (0)

January 9, 2014

By Gary Hardin

During the month of February all Alabama Baptists are being encouraged to schedule a special disaster relief emphasis in their churches.

The Disaster Preparedness Month emphasis features a church preparedness plan, a family preparedness plan and a special disaster relief offering.

“Disasters will occur in our communities,” said Mel Johnson, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) disaster relief strategist. “When crises occur, our churches need to be prepared and equipped for them so they can respond and minister to people.”

Churches must plan how they will respond to disasters so the love of Jesus is shown to disaster survivors. A church might offer the use of its facilities as a feeding center. The church building can serve as a distribution center for clothing, food and household supplies. A congregation might make their church facilities available for disaster relief volunteers to use as a staging area, a child-care center or a communication center.

A church would do well to elect a disaster relief coordinator and to establish a disaster relief committee to give direction to the church in its ministry response to a local disaster. This step, Johnson explained, would better prepare a church to work with its community in disaster relief for a more effective response.

Disasters are unwelcome and painful, Johnson admitted, but they do present huge evangelistic opportunities to reach communities. 

“People in areas hit by a disaster want to know why we respond as we do,” he said. “These inquiries open doors for us to share the gospel.”

Disaster Preparedness Month also is a time for families to think about and prepare for survival techniques after a disaster occurs. Today more people live in disaster-prone areas. Depending on the severity of the damage, hours or days might pass before emergency help becomes available in certain areas impacted by a disaster.

Rick Lance, SBOM executive director, championed the need for family preparedness. 

“We take weather seriously in our state. Alabama has always been known as part of ‘tornado alley,’” he said. “We are also a coastal state. Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico are annual concerns for us.”

A family prepares well for a disaster by assembling a family disaster supply kit. Items in a kit would include water, nonperishable foods, personal hygiene items, blankets, flashlights, medicines, hand tools and more. A list for suggested items to be included in a disaster supply kit can be found at www.alsbom.org/beprepared.

At the heart of Disaster Preparedness Month is the annual special offering for Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief. The 2014 goal is $200,000 and can be achieved by a giving challenge of $1 per member. 

Johnson explained that the money given allows Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers to make immediate ministry responses such as chain saw teams; distribution of water, diapers and personal hygiene items; and hot meals served to victims.

The money also provides for purchases and upgrades of needed disaster relief equipment. Needed equipment used in disasters includes shower units, small feeding units, roof repair units and volunteer housing units.

“My hope for the special disaster relief offering is that churches across our state will view the February emphasis as an opportunity to pray for and support some of Alabama’s finest missionaries with the tools and resources essential for ministry to families in crisis. Alabama’s 7,000 disaster relief volunteers make a global impact for Christ. Support from our churches has made Alabama a pace-setting state in SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) life. Each dollar given provides hope, help and healing to those in need,” Johnson said.

Lance pointed out, “Alabama Baptists have been generous in the past during the weather-related disasters which come our way. The disaster relief offering is a way for us to stay prepared for such events.”

Doug Rogers, director of the SBOM office of communications and technology services, expressed his excitement about the disaster relief offering promotional video. 

“Churches can use this video either on the day they receive the offering or anytime in February,” he said. “This video explains where disaster relief offering dollars go and also shows how lives are changed through disaster relief ministry.”

Posters, bulletin inserts, offering envelopes and additional videos are available to help churches carry out Disaster Preparedness Month. These can be ordered at www.alsbom.org/beprepared or by calling 1-800-264-1225, ext. 273.

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