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SBTC DR shared hope on the field in 2020 despite pandemic

January 25th, 2021 / By: Jane Rodgers | Managing Editor / comments

SBTC DR shared hope on the field in 2020 despite pandemic

The year 2020 saw changes in deployment protocols for Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief in response to COVID-19, yet the ministry remained vibrant and active, albeit on a smaller scale than in previous years. The year featured a growing partnership between SBTC DR and the Salvation Army, with the American Red Cross curtailing its traditional support of mass feeding because of COVID.

“SBTC DR had 25 deployments in 2020, half what we did the year before,” SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice told the TEXAN, adding that five deployments involved out-of-state work in California, Oklahoma and Louisiana. 

Most were shorter missions, as volunteers served those affected by fires, ice and windstorms in the Panhandle and elsewhere and moved equipment from California to Texas.  

Tornadoes struck Texas at Onalaska in April and Bowie in May, marking the first major DR deployments of the year, testing COVID protocols.

“Mississippi DR produced guidelines for doing disaster relief during the pandemic,” Stice recalled. “We adapted it for the SBTC and we went to work. We were among the first teams, if not the first, on the field in a COVID context.”

To date, not one coronavirus case among SBTC DR volunteers has been reported as stemming from a deployment, although other state Baptist teams have reported cases among their volunteers related to DR work, Stice said. 

Many Baptist state DR teams assisted communities in food distribution in response to COVID. SBTC DR did some of this in support of the Houston Food Bank, but “we mostly responded to disasters on the field,” Stice said.

Three hurricanes—Laura, Delta and Sally—pummeled Southeast Texas and Louisiana in rapid succession from August to October, while Hurricane Hanna hit the Rio Grande Valley in July. SBTC DR teams served survivors of each storm, providing food and recovery assistance.

“The year 2020 also marked the continuation of an outstanding relationship with the Texas Salvation Army,” Stice confirmed. “We worked closely with them, making use of our quick response kitchen units and manning both our larger mobile kitchens and theirs to prepare meals for survivors.” SBTC DR worked with Southern Baptist DR teams from Mississippi and Louisiana in these efforts, he added.

IMB and NAMB DR merge under Send Relief in 2020 

On the national disaster relief front, changes also came in 2020 as the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board combined DR efforts under Send Relief.

“Send Relief has become the umbrella for the national relief efforts of NAMB and the international relief efforts of the IMB. Baptist Global Response now also falls under Send Relief,” Stice explained.

Stice, who is in his second year as chairman of the national Southern Baptist Disaster Relief steering committee, expressed enthusiasm about the restructure, suggesting that it will lead to “a bigger and better Southern Baptist response to storms internationally and nationally.”

Volunteers needed

Stice reiterated the need for new volunteers to become trained in disaster relief, noting both in-person and online training sponsored by the SBTC and directing those interested to visit  https://sbtexas.com/disaster-relief/online.

“There is a need for younger volunteers, but they are often limited to deploying on weekends and vacations because of work and families,” Stice said, calling for the newly retired to also consider becoming part of SBTC DR.

Men and women who have recently retired have the time, skills and health to contribute, Stice said, adding, “New retirees are where we build our ranks.”