Help and solace

MANATEE — Battered, wet and weary survivors sure do appreciate a hot meal after enduring the ravages of hurricane or flood.

Hot food represents an act of love and faith that local disaster ministry volunteers are happy to provide.

“This is our purpose statement: To minister help, healing and hope in time of disaster,” explained Rev. Ed Moss, pastor at The Church at Braden River, 5412 S.R. 64 E., the disaster relief coordinator for the Manatee Southern Baptist Association.

“Help is physical help, and that’s just a Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” said Moss.

“Healing is crying with people, listening to their stories, being there to listen to them, folks want to talk about what they’ve been through, that’s again the Golden Rule kind of thing: Hope is the eternal gospel, we believe it’s absolute certainty, being right with God, and brings hope and life.”

More than 30 churches affiliated with the association supply volunteers for the program, which is linked to the Florida Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.

However, Moss emphasized that anyone can volunteer, regardless of religious affiliation, and that the association is always happy to help to train new workers.

“We have different ministries we do in time of hurricane,” explained Moss. “The two main ones are recovery and feeding. Recovery is going in with chain saws and repair equipment to get trees off roofs, secure homes, repair tarping, everything we do is absolutely free. We refuse to even take donations.”

Southern Baptist feeding units use big semi-trailers to haul goods, he said. They serve about 70-plus percent of the food that the American Red Cross offers to those in disaster zones, he said.

“It’s in total cooperation with the Red Cross,” Moss noted.

“So, we’re extremely tight with the Red Cross.”

Moss was living in Miami when Hurricane Andrew, a monster Category 5 storm, blasted South Florida. He also participated in relief efforts during the aftermath of Hurricane Charley and others that ravaged Florida in 2004 and 2005.

He tended to victims of an ice storm that hit Kentucky last year, too.

He works closely with Nancy Kenney, director for Network of Hope, an interdenominational organization whose specialty is Christian disaster and outreach mobilization.

“I work with the national organizations, and found the local churches, while they try to respond, the local churches are not trained or educated,” she said.

“So when a disaster hits, the churches are not prepared and ready to respond to their own community, and yet, they should be playing a huge, huge role.”

That’s why the network helps train church volunteers, so they’ll be effective helpers in the event of disaster in their own area first, and secondly, so they can go elsewhere and efficiently prepare meals, handle child care and help people fill out FEMA applications.

“It’s helping others in time of need,” said Thomas Cole, a Manatee County sheriff’s deputy who is associate team leader for the Manatee Southern Baptist Association disaster relief team.

“It’s people helping people, feeling God has directed me to help others. In the Bible, it even states you are to help your fellow brothers and sisters.”

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 708-7908.