A Florida Deployment Story (in 3 Parts)

A Florida Deployment Story (in 3 Parts)

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A tropical wave began its journey off the coast of West Africa, on September 23, 2022. What would later be named “Hurricane Ian,” eventually grew to a category 5 hurricane as it made its way across tropical Atlantic waters. Hurricane Ian is considered the 3rd deadliest weather disaster ever recorded, taking the lives of at least 160 people. When Ian made US landfall five days later, on September 28th, Florida experienced a deep loss of life, marking 149 of 160 fatalities.

Before a Deployment

Laura Johnson, Disaster Relief Operations Coordinator, shared the process of DR mobilization after a catastrophic event such as Hurricane Ian:

“Traditionally, when a disaster hits in the United States, the DR team of the affected state is first to respond along with other local relief agencies, like the Red Cross. If the damage is great, neighboring states will be invited to join in the relief efforts. Hurricane Ian was so catastrophic, all states were given an invitation to deploy and contribute to the clean-up and other work.” Johnson continued, “California Southern Baptist Convention DR deployed a team of eleven volunteers who were on the ground in Fort Myer, Florida in late October.”

During a Deployment

Sue Shaw, a DR Volunteer who attends First Southern Baptist Church of Madera, was a member of the response team in Fort Myer.

“When we first arrived at our work site, the homeowners were pretty discouraged. Everything they owned was already being moved outside to the street. They were not sure what to do next, whether insurance would help them, or whether they could rebuild. The questions were many, but the answers were not. 

“Our team of eleven began to help them move the rest of their belongings and appliances to the street, or to their back patio for keeping if it was glass and could be washed and saved. We then spent the next day-and-a-half cleaning floors of debris and removing drywall that was already seeing the effects of a mold infestation. By the following day, as we were spraying a shock treatment, (to prevent mold from growing) and preparing to leave, their entire outlook had changed. The homeowners were walking through their -now empty but- clean home, with a renewed perspective. They began discussing the “possibilities!” ( i.e.. ‘We could move this wall and make the kitchen bigger when we redo the house,’ and, ‘I would like to get a different kind of oven and put it on this wall…’).

“There was HOPE again in their voices and they couldn’t keep from thanking us over and over. In fact, they invited us all to join them on a boat ride down the canal to the Caloosahatchee River to see the damage the storm surge had left. What a blessing to help them, renew some hope in their faces, and to be blessed with such a treat!”

After a Deployment

Kendrick Neal, Pastor of Calvary Church in West Hills, California, was the lead for the team of eleven. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, he reflected:

“Paul, says we are to pray that God would open a door for us to share the mysteries of Christ, the Gospel of Jesus (Colossians 4:3). Several years ago, I asked a mentor, ‘How do you always find people to share the Gospel with?’  He responded not only with a confused look but said, ‘I pray for the opportunities. Don’t you?’

“The most important thing we did was not clean up houses, or cut trees, or pass out food.  The most important thing we did was share Jesus with our words and works… When we prayed with others, they were amazed at the joy we had in our hearts from knowing Jesus. Just by filling our prayers with gratefulness for who Jesus is and what Jesus did, the people we prayed with were given Hope. At church, on Sunday, a lady asked where we were from, and when we said, ‘California,’ with a look of surprise on her face, she said, ‘Praise God for you! There are still Christians in California?’ As we were leaving one house, another woman named Sharon said, ‘I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Yesterday I thought it was a train. Today I see it’s hope.’

“It is God’s desire for people to come to know Christ. Our team prayed for opportunities during the entire trip, and guess what? We had opportunities to share the Gospel the entire trip. This was a special trip because our team loved people enough to pray for them. I am so grateful for each member of this team and their heart of prayer.”

On March 29, 2023, the World Meteorological Organization officially retired the name “Ian” from its rotating list of names and replaced it with “Idris.” This change was made, in large part, due to the extreme damage and loss of life caused by Hurricane Ian in 2022.

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