Archives For Hurricane Irma


Chicago pastor Dave Andreson (left) met Puerto Rican church planters while serving on the island in October, including Jose Ponce, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Resurrección in Isabela.

Arecibo, Puerto Rico | In October, Southern Baptist volunteers began relief efforts in Puerto Rico after the U.S. territory sustained devastating damage from the one-two punch of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The volunteers are working through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Relief initiative, but their work is unlike other Disaster Relief projects.

“The circumstance is so unusual that we have to take the full responsibility of this response on our own,” said David Melber, president of Send Relief. “That means buying and shipping the food, renting warehouse space, sending the kitchen equipment, and then providing the volunteers to do the cooking. We are forging our entire response by ourselves.”

Chicago church planter Dave Andreson spent a week in Puerto Rico as a trained Disaster Relief chaplain. Andreson, a U.S. Army veteran, couldn’t shake the growing burden he felt for the island. “I had to get there,” said the pastor of Resurrection City Church in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood.

While plans to send volunteers to Puerto Rico were on hold immediately after the storms, Andreson attended a two-day Disaster Relief training at Lake Sallateeska Baptist Camp in southern Illinois. One week later, with Baptist volunteers able to get into Puerto Rico, Andreson boarded a flight from Chicago to San Juan.


Pastor George McKnight and his wife, Debbie, pause for a photo at Green Island Baptist Church in Puerto Rico, which lost its roof and was flooded during Hurricane Maria’s sweeping destruction.

He served with a Disaster Relief team from Virginia in Arecibo, a city 50 miles west of San Juan in northern Puerto Rico. The team stayed at First Baptist Church there and spent their days cleaning out homes and removing downed trees. Andreson said the teams are working under the leadership of local pastors who understand the people and needs in their communities.

Since the hurricanes, Andreson said, many people are leaving Puerto Rico. Their workplaces are still without power, most schools are still closed, and if you have running water, it’s not safe to drink. FBC Aricebo has already lost about 40 people. One church planter Andreson talked to is worried his young congregation won’t survive.

But the Chicago pastor said he believes Puerto Rico is primed for the gospel. “Physical suffering makes us aware of physical need, and those physical needs always open the door by which the word of God, the gospel proclaimed, makes us aware of our spiritual need,” Andreson said.

“This is a horrible thing that happened, but it’s a good gift from God by which the gospel will go forward. Now more than ever, the church in Puerto Rico, the church of Jesus Christ, has an opportunity to shine the light of Christ.”

The punishing hurricane season has left its mark in other parts of the U.S., including Florida and in Texas, where Illinois teams have served in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. For more information about Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief opportunities and training, go to To learn more about opportunities in Puerto Rico through Send Relief, go to

– Meredith Flynn, with reporting from NAMB

Illinois commits to Texas aid

ib2newseditor —  September 25, 2017

Massive Florida storm stretches Baptist response

FBC Galatia flood recovery volunteers do mud-out work on a house in Vidor, Texas, near Beaumont.

FBC Galatia flood recovery volunteers do mud-out work on a house in Vidor, Texas, near Beaumont. They’re working with eight other teams from several states on a list of 200 area homes that continues to grow. Facebook photo courtesy Butch & Debbie Porter

Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) continues its marathon response in Texas doing flood recovery work in homes drying out after Hurricane Harvey, providing shower and laundry facilities, and preparing hot meals for relief workers and displaced Texans. And a team of childcare volunteers traveled more than a thousand miles to wipe tears away when the response began in early September.

No sooner had the work in Texas ramped up for IBDR when Hurricane Irma swept through Florida. Many wondered if teams would be deployed to the east. Dwayne Doyle, IBDR state director, notified volunteers, “We have made the decision to focus our ongoing work in Texas as a partner with the Southern Baptist Texas Convention Disaster Relief. Many of the Southeastern state Disaster Relief units are leaving Texas to go work with Hurricane Irma victims in Florida.

“We will continue to focus our efforts in Texas because this is where we have identified a specific and strategic need that IBDR can meet.”

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, noted state Disaster Relief organizations have done “an absolutely incredible job” since the landfall of Harvey in Texas on Aug. 25, followed by Irma in Florida on Sept. 10.

“It’s going to be a long-term response in both places and we need help in the months to come….We have a desperate need for more volunteers in Florida and in Texas,” he said.
Mini Disaster Relief training events were hot tickets in Illinois in September. Nine were held across the state, where at least 150 people received flood recovery training.

Jan Kragness

Jan Kragness at the Dallas Convention Center. Facebook photo courtesy Kragness.

Help for hurting families
IBDR Chaplain Jan Kragness served on the 10-person childcare team that deployed to the Dallas Convention Center to work with some 2,500 Houston-area evacuees housed there. She shared glimpses of her experience on Facebook. On Sept. 2 Kragness shared, “It was a hard day. Many people were rescued by boat day before yesterday. They were brought in at 1:30 a.m. The children and parents were sad and tired. My arms were tired.”

Kragness told the story of one family with three young children. The younger brother “was so unhappy, he could not stand the separation anxiety of being away from Mommy. His 5-year-old sister came into his group area, and held him for comfort. He was almost as big as she was.”

Kragness took the younger brother and sister to their mother. “She loved on the children and tried explaining that she had to get the sister registered for school and there was a long line. But she would be back for them. The mommy looked exhausted.”

That was when the woman told Kragness what had happened. “She explained to me that their home had been broken into and the children assaulted and that was part of the separation anxiety. We had prayer with the mother…So when I took the children back to the childcare area, they were more comfortable but would not integrate with the others and could not let go of me.”

About an hour later, the older brother came to check on his siblings. He told Kragness, “Miss Jan, we’ve got trouble at our house. Big trouble.” She told him, “Well, if you would like to talk about it, I would be glad to listen.”

He shared, “Our house was broken into by a bad man. He knocked down my brother, and hurt my sister. Mommy is scared and Daddy is mad. Our house is scary and we have trouble.”

Kragness said, “I am so glad you shared with me. And I am so glad you are safe now. There really are lots of people who are watching over you, but the greatest of all is Jesus. Shall we pray and ask Jesus to care for you and your family and keep you safe?”

“Yes, please pray to Jesus for me,” he said.

She assured him Jesus was listening to him anytime and everywhere. He prayed, “Jesus, please keep my little brother and my sister safe and help Mommy and Daddy to not be so worried.”

Kragness wrote, “He looked so relieved. He hugged me and ran off to play football. My heart ached to follow him and hold him close. But I knew Jesus had that job handled.”

The response continues
More IBDR teams are on their way to Texas. Volunteers trained in mass feeding, shower/laundry, and flood recovery are needed. If you can go with one of these teams, contact the team leader:

September 26 – October 8
Unit # IL RC 005 – Greater Wabash Baptist Association
Team Leader: Donald Ile
Phone: (618) 599-4234

October 2-8
Unit #IL25
 – Sullivan Baptist Church
Team Leader: Don Lusk
Phone: (217) 232-8880

October 7-15
Unit #27 – Harrisburg First Baptist Church.
Team Leader: Joe Jackson
Cell: (618) 841-5015

Teams that have already served in the Beaumont area include:

– A 26-person mobile kitchen team based out of Living Faith Baptist in Sherman which prepared nearly 41,000 meals, along with Incident Command leadership and shower/laundry trailers from both Franklin and Macoupin Associations. It was mobilized with volunteers from across the state.
– A flood recovery team with members from central and Metro East Illinois.
– A team from FBC Galatia with members trained in flood recovery, mass feeding, and shower/laundry trailers.

To learn more about the callouts, training, and how to donate, visit

– Lisa Misner Sergent, with additional reporting by Baptist Press