NEWS | Lisa Sergent
The Detroit suburb of Warren, Mich., is the destination for four Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief teams in September. Three additional teams served there last month, after slow-moving storms dumped several inches of rain on the area Aug. 11.
“There are 40,000 affected homes in Oakland County alone,” Baptist State Convention of Michigan Disaster Relief director Wynn Williams told Baptist Press. “There are another 30,000 to 40,000 damaged homes in Wayne County and then all the work in McComb County. There was as much as 15 feet of water over some of the expressways. Homes have damage anywhere from a few inches to several feet of floodwater.”
The flooding went largely uncovered by national media, and few outside of Michigan were aware of the need for recovery assistance. Teams from First Baptist in Galatia, Sullivan Southern Baptist, and Capital City Baptist Association were the first Illinois volunteers to arrive, followed by four teams from Williamson Baptist Association scheduled to serve this month. Each team works five or six days, not including travel time.
“The majority of the homes belong to senior adults who are not able to do the necessary work to clean up and sanitize their homes,” said Rex Alexander, IBSA State Disaster Relief Coordinator. “The good news is that because the water entered homes through the basements, there is not much actual ‘mud’ present in the homes, only water damage.”
Teams removed furniture and appliances from basements, cut out walls, and sanitized surfaces. When they completed the jobs, they presented the homeowners with a Bible signed by them and then all prayed together. Bob Jackson, leader of the Sullivan Southern team, talked about the team’s experience at one home.
“We prayed with one couple where he was a Lutheran and she was Romanian Orthodox. They told us about growing up and being active in church as youths, but not anymore. We had just finished working on his man-cave in the basement. I told him they needed to remember the God of their youth. I like to make people think and to plant a seed.”
The teams also worked in neighborhoods with significant Muslim populations. David Howard, director of missions for Capital City Association, said one evening the volunteers were treated to a catered meal of traditional Middle Eastern food by a local imam.
Howard also noted the team had an opportunity to work in the home of a woman who was a new Christian. “She had recently received the Lord and been baptized. She was so excited to share with us about her newfound faith.”
After the first few Illinois teams had returned home, Alexander got a thank-you email from Tony Lynn, a pastor in Monroe, Mich. “Volunteers from our church worked alongside your teams,” Lynn wrote. “We saw firsthand, your teams share the good news of Christ with compassion and devotion. We saw discouraged residents beam with hope after your teams started their work….Residents’ sorrows were replaced with smiles because you showed them that there are more important things than possessions.”
The national Disaster Relief response in Michigan is expected to end by the second week of October. For more information about Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief, go to http://www.IBSA.org/dr.