"The size of this is massive," said Maj. Dalton Cunningham, Salvation Army divisional commander. "It is covering several states and coming several hundred miles inland. So the needed resources are going to be more widespread. This one is hitting multiple cities."
As of yesterday, "approximately 100 Salvation Army workers are presently working either in the fieldsuch as at shelters in New Orleansor at national and regional headquarters to coordinate activities. Another 200 are standing by at the perimeter of the storm, waiting on the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assess where best to direct resources," said the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is preparing to serve 400,000 people per day on 72 mobile canteens. Another 20,000 people can be fed by two 54-foot mobile kitchens.
The Southern Baptist Convention is also prepared to serve 300,000 meals per day, and they expect to be serving half a million meals a day by the end of the week. The SBC's disaster relief program has 30,000 trained volunteers ready to go to coastal areas affected by the hurricane.
"Mobile kitchens, shower units, cleanup and recovery units, and communication equipment from more than 20 states are being moved today to staging areas near Memphis, Tennessee, and Marshall, Texas," said Jim Burton, volunteer mobilization director for the SBC's North American Mission Board.
"The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army depend on the North American Mission Board to coordinate the nearly 600 disaster relief units owned by churches, associations, and state conventions and staffed by Southern Baptist volunteers," according to Baptist Press.
"We're working right now to determine where our units will set up in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. We'll be able to assign units to those locations by Tuesday morning, and most of them should be in place and ready to serve hot meals by Wednesday," Burton said.
Relief efforts are already making a difference in Louisiana and Mississippi. The Louisiana Baptist Convention has 1,200 trained volunteers and more are coming. "I'm sure we're going to use every single one of our Louisiana Baptist volunteers," Loy Seal, state disaster relief director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, told The Shreveport Times.
"The call went out in a large way and we're preparing in a large way," said Maj. Stephen Long of Shreveport's Salvation Army. "I see the same intensity of resources in Louisiana that we had for [Hurricane Andrew in 1992]."
Churches are also sheltering refugees from the storm. "Parkway Baptist Church in Natchez, Mississippi, is housing about 350 people, mostly from the New Orleans area. Jason Cole, an associate pastor at the church, told Baptist Press about 40 church members have joined forces with the Red Cross to provide food and medical assistance. Church members have also provided some lay counseling, he said, to people who arrived with essentially 'nothing more than a toothbrush.'"
The storm's effects are felt as far away as California, where many former Louisiana residents have moved. Many black churches in Southern California are offering help, reports the Los Angeles Times. John J. Hunter, pastor of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, said, "A number of our members have relatives whose roots are in that neck of the woods." According to the Times, "Since Sunday, the church has collected $10,000, which will soon be forwarded to churches and community organizations in neighborhoods ripped apart by the hurricane."
In response, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared Wednesday a day of prayer. "I am asking that all of Louisiana take some time Wednesday to pray. Pray for the victims and the rescuers. Please pray that God will give us all the physical and spiritual strength to work through this crisis and rebuild.
"Please pray for patience for those anxiously waiting to hear from family members or to get word about their homes. Pray for the safety of our hard-working rescuers and those they are bringing to safety."
Prayer, Blanco said, "would be the best thing to calm our spirits and thank our Lord that we are survivors. Slowly, gradually, we will recover; we will survive; we will rebuild."
Copyright © 2005 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Relief organizations accepting donations are listed on our website.