Partnering makes relief ministry possible across North America
by Tim Buehner
Many parts of the Church working together in harmony makes the impossible – possible. This is especially true in the area of Disaster Relief. Far from being an impersonal entity with equipment and people at the ready, Disaster Relief New England (DRNE) is made up of people from around New England and the United States who are passionate about serving God through serving others.
As part of the BCNE, DRNE works in partnership with national leaders, associational leaders and a network of New England volunteers to prepare for and respond to disasters. For example, from August to November of 2016, three teams traveled to West Virginia in response to the flooding that took place over the summer. How were these teams organized? How were they trained to do mud-outs, tear-outs, sanitization, assessment, feeding, rebuilding and chaplaincy? Where did the finances and resources they needed come from? The answer is partnerships.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is our leading national partner and plays a strategic role in sharing information and deployment logistics during large-scale disasters. Their Disaster Operations Center in Alpharetta, Ga., helps coordinate crew assignments, provides travel logistics, hosts leadership calls, coordinates with other national disaster organizations and more. As NAMB is reorganizing Disaster Relief into SEND Relief, they will also assist with fundraising, producing training videos and developing volunteers. Much of this assistance is funded by your gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter offering and the Cooperative Program.
In many ways, Disaster Relief is a partnership network of 42 participating state organizations (like the BCNE’s Disaster Relief New England) that collaborate, serve together and coordinate responses. Each state organization is tasked with recruiting, training and organizing responses to local or regional events so that local leaders and volunteers can serve. In the case of the three teams serving in West Virginia, DRNE trained volunteers in advance, spread the word about the need, encouraged donations, purchased mission insurance and coordinated travel and other team logistics. We also communicated with the WV Disaster Relief leadership to arrange location based on need and other logistics to deploying teams.
DRNE has five regional coordinators that promote the ministry to local churches, coordinate the deployment of volunteers and actively participate in training or instruction. These coordinators work with other organizations like the Red Cross to share training and resources as needed. They also work with their local associational leadership to partner financially. This associational partnership aided the teams that went to West Virginia. Two of the teams to WV were made up of multi-state volunteers. Volunteers came from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut. The other team came from White Oak Baptist Church in Connecticut. Tim Brown, the DRNE coordinator leader in Maine, lead and handled most of the arrangements for the teams.
Both the beginning and end of the circle of Disaster Relief partners is the local congregation. They partner with the other levels in order to facilitate a chaplain like Margie Holloway from Nashua Baptist Church traveling to Rainelle, W.V., where she was able to pray with and encourage Mayor Andrea Pendleton in a time of great need.
All of Disaster Relief is designed to support, enable and empower the local church to mature disciples and serve during disasters in ways that the church could not accomplish alone. None of the work of Disaster Relief could be done without partners at every level. All of this brings glory to our Lord Jesus Christ and opportunities to share the Gospel with those in need.
Tim Buehner is the mobilization and ministry evangelism coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.