Mount Vernon Baptist Church to host disaster relief training
by Sherrie Norris
This two-day session in Boone covers the organization's Region 7, one of 10 statewide, and includes the counties of Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Catawba, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin.
"We are excited to be hosting this statewide training event for disaster response and recovery at Mount Vernon Baptist Church," said associate pastor Bud Russell. "Our aim is also to not only provide emergency assistance, but to also have an opportunity, while coming alongside those who are in pain to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Terry Barnes, Region 7 coordinator, said it takes a sincere desire to help in turbulent times -- and it takes instruction to do it in the most productive manner.
The training is available to believers who have a passion to serve others through a unique mission experience -- and one that's not always planned for weeks in advance, Barnes said.
"Answering the call to serve can come at a moment' s notice because of the sudden nature of natural disasters," he said. "It all starts with a call from emergency management teams from the location where the disaster occurs. Within a short amount of time, we are ready to roll, working in partnership with the local officials, the American Red Cross and often with the Salvation Army."
The NCBM -- which is not for men only -- has become known as one of the first outreach groups across the nation to arrive on the scene of natural disasters, offering hope and help through a wide range of services.
"We started out as a men's mission, but we now have as many women volunteers," Barnes said. "We couldn't do it without the women."
He said NCBM is not just a statewide outreach.
"We have formed partnerships all over the United States and internationally, as well. We are branching out and sending teams in for reconstruction to places such as Haiti, India and Africa. We do a lot with little -- quietly and behind the scenes," he said.
Barnes said the upcoming training session will cover a variety of topics: food safety and preparation for mass feeding, helping homeowners recover by using "mud-out," chain saw, and temporary repair skills, emergency child care (requires background check), radio communications, domestic and international medical response, (current N.C. medical license required), shower and laundry unit setup and maintenance, chaplaincy to provide spiritual care and encouragement to volunteers and survivors (background check required), search and rescue -- and more.
Individuals in the food preparation class will provide breakfast and lunch on Saturday."We try to make the training as realistic as possible," Barnes said.
"It's an overnight event that goes late on Friday night and starts early Saturday morning," he said. 'That's the way it is when we're out there. Everybody brings their sleeping bags and sleeps in the church facility."
Barnes said the organization's feeding, shower and laundry trailers will be on-site in Boone, with participation from the local Red Cross and Salvation Army. Emergency management personnel from Watauga and surrounding counties have also been invited.
"When we take a call, we might end up simply being on standby -- or it might require months and even years of commitment, Barnes said. "We stay until we are finished. After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, we adopted Gulf Port, Miss., and were there for about three years during which we helped rebuild or repair 700 homes -- many from foundation up."
After Hurricane Sandy's destruction in New Jersey, Barnes said, another commitment was made -- "so far" the NCBM has reconstructed 200 homes.
"We come in and stay until the job is finished," he said. "We never make a promise we don't keep, but we also have to be careful about the promises we make. The people we are helping are people who are down on their luck and not able to recover."
Barnes said, "It's only through the generosity of volunteers who give of their time, talent and skills -- and through donations -- that we are able to do this. We are all volunteers; there is only one paid (director) position in this entire organization."
Why do they do it, one might ask? "Because of our commitment to Jesus Christ," Barnes said. "We don't make any bones about it. We are his feet and his hands and are happy to tell people that's why we do what we do."
Volunteers are responsible for paying their own way when called out and many are cross-trained, Barnes said, to meet various needs.
Barnes added that volunteer training is "really important" to better understand the guidelines for response, in accordance to the policies and procedures of NCBM.
Beyond learning the hands-on physical aspects of the ministry, individuals at the training sessions are given the opportunity to become effective missions leaders through spiritual growth, learning how to share their faith, and becoming active in mission work.
"In the middle of a disaster response, not every volunteer has the time to sit down with each person, individually, but we can all offer a smile and word of encouragement," Barnes said.
The motivation behind N.C. Baptist Disaster Relief efforts is easily connected to biblical accounts of Jesus teaching, healing and feeding the multitudes.
"Two things people can do if they can't volunteer with us is to pray and give to the NC Baptist Mission's offering," Barnes said.
Cost for the basic training is $45 and includes training manual, hat, shirt, identification badge, mirror hanger and three meals. Cost for recertification is $25; both fees are nonrefundable. Preregistration is required and accepted on a first-come, first-served basis due to limited space. For more information, visit http://www.baptistonmission.org or call (800)395-5102 ext. 5599. NCBM is an affiliate of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.