By Jim Nieman
International Disaster Emergency Service has been extremely busy since mid-September responding to hurricanes that made landfall in North Carolina and along Florida’s Panhandle.
David Stine, director of operations for IDES, said recovery efforts are well underway in the Carolinas, largely with the help of partner Two Rivers Church in hard-hit New Bern, N.C.. Work is just beginning in Florida, however, with Bayou George Christian Church, located near Panama City, likely to serve as the hub of response. (BGCC is pictured above.)
“We are stretched, but God is providing,” said IDES executive director Rick Jett. “We have a lot of great partner churches.”
In both the Carolinas and Florida, IDES is being helped by churches that partnered with the Indiana-based Christian church/church of Christ organization well in advance of the recent troubles.
In Florida, Christ’s Church of Jacksonville, a megachurch, is helping IDES marshal an early response.
In North Carolina, Two Rivers Church “has worked closely with us for a year and a half. They actually build and store these storage sheds for us,” Stine said. “They had 30 of them ready to go.”
Storage sheds are a key way IDES helps people in the immediate aftermath of such disasters. In the case of flooding, as was the major issue in New Bern, a shed provided to an affected person or homeowner serves as a dry place to store whatever can be been salvaged from a home.
“It’s a quick and easy way for the church to respond with something tangible,” Stine said.
Two Rivers Church found itself in a unique situation after Hurricane Florence, Stine said, in that the town and surrounding area suffered widespread damage, but the church did not. As a result, the church was able to begin helping with recovery almost immediately.
“We coordinate with different churches in different ways, depending on their needs and abilities,” Stine said. A community’s church and its leaders are in the best position of knowing who most needs help. IDES workers can help provide leadership and help create and execute a game plan.
After Hurricane Florence, IDES helped connect Two Rivers and its lead minister David McCants with folks from Jacksonville (N.C.) Christian Church, about 35 miles away. Two Rivers has provided tangible support to recovery in the Jacksonville community.
“It’s amazing when churches can come alongside and help each other,” Stine said.
IDES is also helping with recovery efforts through Venture Church and Cape Fear Christian Church, both of Wilmington, N.C., and Ekklesia Christian Church in Conway, S.C.
The situation in Florida as a result of Hurricane Michael is different than in North Carolina. The winds from Florence—which made landfall just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., on Sept. 14—were damaging but, for the most part, not devastating. Storm surge and huge amounts of rain are what caused most of the damage in that region.
Florida and Hurricane Michael, on the other hand, saw less rain but extremely high winds that knocked down trees, power lines and poles, and many houses and buildings. Damage from the hurricane—which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla., Oct. 10—is so extreme that travel, communications, and electrical power in Florida’s Panhandle will continue to be compromised for some time to come.
Stine said an IDES assessment team arrived on the scene about two days ago. “We have a couple of staff members seeing what their needs are.” The organization is working with Bayou George Christian Church—whose building survived the fierce winds—and will be helping in the surrounding area.
Said Stine on Tuesday morning: “We have equipment rolling out [from Indiana] that will be getting there [Bayou George] tomorrow.” (Stine said volunteers from Markle [Ind.] Church of Christ are transporting supplies from IDES in Noblesville, Ind., to Florida.)
An immediate need there is for a shower unit—a trailer for volunteers and others to take showers—and so IDES is sending one. “Project manager Randy Jones reported people are bathing in ponds and creeks.”
Christ’s Church of Jacksonville is sending a team of volunteers that should arrive at Bayou George today [Wednesday]. Jett said water is another immediate need there, as are generators to provide power. He anticipates the crew from Christ’s Church will bring some of the latter.
Christ’s Church signed up for “Prepare to Respond Training” with IDES after experiencing damage resulting from Hurricane Irma in 2017. The training is designed to help churches respond to disasters more quickly and effectively, Stine said.
Stine said several church groups and individuals are volunteering to work toward recovery in the affected areas. IDES is serving as a clearinghouse for the scheduling of work teams.
A great number of folks volunteer shortly after a disaster—sometimes more people than can be effectively put to work. Then, after several months, fewer folks sign up, but volunteers are still needed, Stine said, and that’s one reason scheduling and coordinating workers is important.
Another reason is that the type of help that is needed changes with time. Early in recovery efforts, there is “mucking out” of houses, tearing out drywall, ripping up carpet, etc.—work that involves hard labor but minimal expertise. Later, electricians, carpenters, and other skilled craftsmen are needed.
Stine anticipates help will be needed in the affected areas well into next year. If you or your church group wants to volunteer, call IDES at (317) 773-4111 with contact information and deployment availability information to help partner churches coordinate a schedule for workers and work groups.
IDES helps people in their “physical and spiritual needs,” Stine said. It strives to help the local church to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community. Ideally, the local church and God receive the credit for any help that IDES and volunteers from outside churches are able to help facilitate.
Jett said that supply needs change during the course of disaster recovery. He suggests that people keep checking www.ides.org to see what supplies are most needed.
Of course, tax-deductible cash donations are most welcome and usually are timelier. Stine notes that disaster recovery is very expensive, and IDES receives no money from the government.
Any designated donations to IDES, a nonprofit, go directly to disaster recovery; none of it is used for administrative costs or overhead. Just write “Hurricane Florence Relief,” “Hurricane Michael Relief,” or “Disaster” on your check or when using the online giving form.
Just this morning, IDES reported via its website that donor gifts for Hurricane Michael relief will be matched dollar-for-dollar (up to $50,000). Mark your check “Hurricane Michael” or “Matching.”
More information about volunteering and donating to IDES is available at www.ides.org.
Information about donating to the churches mentioned in this article is available at their respective websites.
Bayou George Christian Church posted this on Facebook Tuesday: “We’ve had AMAZING help from Michael Price, from Momentum Christian Church [McDonough, Ga.]. He has blazed a path from Highway 20—all the way to BGCC, the land here and several homes (3 full days. sunrise to sunset.) Thankful for the skills and resources people are extending!”
BGCC’s Facebook page reported early this morning that two sister churches in Panama City suffered significant damage from Hurricane Michael: “Our sister churches experienced much greater loss than us. Eastside Christian Church and Christian Church at Panama City, both have extensive structural and roof damage, plus accumulation of rain in their buildings. Very saddening.”
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.