Southern Baptist Relief and Hurricane Sandy

BOB ABERNETHY, host: Much of the East Coast is still grappling with the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The storm affected at least 17 states, caused massive flooding, and left millions without power. Religious leaders, including Pope Benedict the 16th, prayed for the victims and for a strong recovery. And many faith-based groups quickly rallied to help those impacted by the storm—among them, the North American Mission Board, the relief arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Mike Ebert is the Mission Board’s vice president for communications. He joins us from the board’s headquarters in Atlanta Georgia.

Mike, welcome. Let me begin with inviting you to talk about the extent of the SBC’s efforts here. How many people do you have? What are you doing?

MIKE EBERT (Southern Baptist Convention): Well, Bob, we have 82,000 trained disaster relief volunteers, 15,000 disaster relief units, and we will by Monday be at a 400,000 meal capacity. So we’ll be preparing 400,000 hot meals to be served to victims and other first responders, and that will be kind of the beginning point for us. We’ll see where it goes from there.

Mike Ebert, Vice President of CommunicationsABERNETHY: I heard on the radio the mayor of Hoboken a couple of days ago pleading for people in the neighboring towns to come bring them food. Do you hear that kind of thing?

EBERT: We do. We’ve been watching the reports like you, and we do have several of our people on the ground already, and so that’s why just as this is an historic disaster for the United States, it’s going to be a historic response for Southern Baptists. We’ve mobilized every mobile kitchen unit we have east of the Rockies, so that’s how big of a response this is going to be.

ABERNETHY: And people are coming from where, all over the country?

EBERT: Really, we have units as far away as Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, who are on their way now. We have 15 kitchen units that are already set up and preparing hot meals.

ABERNETHY: What’s the priority? The meals?

EBERT: Right now the priority is the meals, because so many people have been—well, they’re just not even in their homes. They’re in shelters, or they’re without power, and that could remain the case for another three weeks. But after that, we also have other units that will come in and help with tree removal so people can get power restored; help with mud-out work for homes that have been flooded. So it’s a very comprehensive response.

ABERNETHY: Is the government doing so much that there’s not much work left for the private groups, or is there plenty of work for you?

EBERT: Plenty of work. It’s very much a partnership. We work very closely with FEMA. We have a representative in their D.C. office; same with American Red Cross. We have a representative there. So it’s very much a partnership between Southern Baptists, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and we all work together very well and with local governments.

ABERNETHY: And quickly, Mike. It’s a spiritual relief program as well as a material one, isn’t it?

EBERT: Sure is. First we want to relieve the physical suffering, but secondly we do have chaplains that come in with every unit so they can be there for spiritual counseling, spiritual encouragement. This very much is just as much a physical crisis as it is a spiritual and emotional crisis for people.

ABERNETHY: Mike Ebert of the Southern Baptist Convention. Many thanks.

EBERT: Thank you, Bob.

  • Carol Dolan

    My husband and I wanted to donate to your work with Sandy and you do not have a place to donate. OR I can’t find it.

    I like to give through the North American Mission Board, because I want to support the work done to the glory of our Lord and I believe you have a good organization for knowing how to help and share the love of the Lord.

    I would hope you would set up a place that people can give easily.

    Thank you,
    Carol Dolan

  • Barney Hollis

    How can I donate to this effort?

  • Debbie Hill

    What is going on regarding the halt in food preparation due Disaster Relief not having a restaurant license??
    Seriously? Government buracracy trumps human suffering?????Is this related to local restaurant UNIONS pushing back…..???? Or just the City of New York who care more about a license rather than their people’s hunger?

  • Alice

    Carol, I was just reading your post. I know you can donate online at Then go to disaster relief donations. I assume that is for financial donations. I know the sbc churches in Georgia are doing “buckets of care” for New Jersey. There is a list of items to go in a 5 gallon bucket…ranging from cleaning supplies to first aid but its a specific list. Hope this helps. Look up the convention in your area and you should find out more. :). God bless!

  • Karen

    While I often have contempt for the spiritual end of the SBC and their rather offensive views on women and the evangelization of Jews, I have nothing but respect for the way they are on site and working toward easing suffering in disasters from Katrina to Sandy.

  • John Killian

    I would like to go and help. How can I volunteer?

  • Natalie Gaweda

    Thank you for sending your teams to Staten Island NY – I have seen first hand your wonderful volunteers on the ground and in the trenches before anyone else! God bless you for your diligence! And caring forn us!

  • Linda Bowen

    I just got back from Waretown, N.J. & we were there 5 days & prepard 21,300 meals. In answer to a question “How can I volunteer?” You must take training….I took mine almost 2 yrs ago & this was the first time I’ve been called.