Disaster Relief: Grace in the aftermath

by Caroline Barnhill, Contributing Writer


Thursday, August 9, 2018

For many, 2017 will be remembered as a year marked by devastation. Last year’s hurricane season was one of the most costly in U.S. history. A series of major storms, which included hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, caused unprecedented damage in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other parts of the United States.

In response, N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission, mobilized to respond to 18 different disasters providing hands-on assistance. Over the year, they were able to repair 128 homes, clean more than 3,000 loads of laundry, serve more than 500,000 meals, complete nearly 700 flood cleanup jobs and provide more than 15,000 showers to people desperate for a simple act of normalcy in the midst of chaos.  

Their assistance to the people of Puerto Rico changed lives.

Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in September 2017, left thousands without food, power or shelter. Six months after the storm, large portions of the island were still left without electricity. 

Dozens of volunteers from Baptists on Mission flew to Puerto Rico to provide on the ground support. They purified 16,000 gallons of water and sent recovery teams to pick up debris, clean out houses and repair roofs.

“It’s very hard to have a positive outlook on life and have hope when the least — which is to have a safe place to live in — you don’t have it,” says Laura Ayala, who helped coordinate Baptists on Mission's relief efforts in Puerto Rico. “So that’s what these teams have been doing.They have been giving hope back. They have been sharing the love of Christ with the  people in a tangible way because everybody knows that what they’re doing is not just building a roof they’re building back hope.”

Baptists on Mission will continue its work in repairing Puerto Rico — as well as other sites impacted by natural disasters — in the months to come. The organization receives much of its funding from the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), which is received primarily during the month of September. Each year, 41 percent of the NCMO funds are allocated to Baptists on Mission for ministries like disaster relief. 

This year, the offering’s theme is “Open Hands” from Psalm 145:16 — recognizing that God has opened His hands to us so that we may open ours to others. The work Baptists on Mission do through the generosity of NCMO shows the love of Christ, in a very practical way, to those in the midst of suffering. 

“Every time a roof is done the community celebrates it. So even though their houses might not be all fixed, I think the message to the community is that they are not forgotten,” Ayala says. “God cares and is sending people to take care of their needs.”