Seventh-day Adventist volunteers are working double-duty in the United States as they seek to provide relief to communities affected by flooding in Louisiana and a fire in California.
Church members and ministry leaders, working under the auspices of the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response, are providing shelter, clothing, food, water, and toiletries.
“Louisiana and California are currently being affected by very different crisis events, but what has been consistent in these situations is the response of our people to those experiencing disaster,” said W. Derrick Lea, director of the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response for the church’s North American Division.
“We know disasters will increase in severity and number as we approach Christ’s return,” Lea said. “In both these most recent cases, volunteers … have put all of their daily routine activities on hold to assist the community. These types of responses are commonplace for many who are helping their communities with no thought to asking for anything in return.”
Authorities in Louisiana, where devastating floods have killed at least 13 people and destroyed 40,000 homes, have asked Adventist Community Services Disaster Response to open a multi-agency warehouse in the state’s capital, Baton Rouge, to accept donated goods for flood survivors. The warehouse was scheduled to open shortly.
Volunteers are also sending relief supplies to people stranded by floodwaters.
“We are attempting to get food and supplies to those affected via boats,” the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response said in a statement. “Clothing, food, diapers, personal hygiene supplies, and bed linens top the list of donated and needed items.”
Four churches also are offering shelter in Louisiana: the Baton Rouge Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Baton Rouge Spanish church, and the Kenner and Metairie churches in New Orleans.
Several churches in Arkansas and northern Louisiana have opened collection centers to gather and distribute emergency relief items.
While Adventist volunteers have stepped in to help, local church members have also been affected by the disaster, including two pastors, whose homes were badly damaged, said Lavida Whitson, head of the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response team for the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference.
The Baton Rouge Spanish church, which is sheltering 35 people, said 90 percent of its members were evacuated from their homes.
The Arkansas-Louisiana volunteer team has lent cots and mattresses to the Kenner church, which is sheltering 25 victims. It also is in contact with a local food bank, making arrangements to feed evacuees.
Whitson said three nongovernment organizations have asked her team to set up warehouses in their communities.
“We await the state’s final request before we respond in the affirmative to any of these entities,” she said.
Adventist volunteers are also helping collect donations in the Texas Conference.
“As we help during this disaster, we ask others to pray with us,” said Irene Williams, a representative of the church’s Southwest Regional Conference. “Keep Louisiana in your thoughts and prayers.”
Meanwhile in California, two churches are offering assistance after a fire linked to arson burned thousands of acres (hectares) and destroyed about 200 homes and businesses.
Lakeport Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of three locations listed on the California government website as an evacuation center amid the Clayton fire in Lake County. The church has taken in at least 15 people. Both Lakeport and the second church, Middleton, are providing other support for evacuees, who include several Adventists who lost property.
Red Cross volunteers are using the Middletown church, while a group of Adventist volunteers is assisting at a second evacuation center, Twin Pines Casino.
Jim Pedersen, president of the Northern California Conference, has expressed his gratitude to the volunteers.
“Prayers are going up on everyone’s behalf,” he said.