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Christian Relief Rushing to Florida

Aug 17, 2004

How did Hurricane Charley affect our churches in Florida?

Very little news has been coming out, with phones inoperative and e-mail not working, but our inquiries did get this reponse from Bill Smith, pastor of Grace Christian Ministries in Maitland, in the Orlando area:

“We fared well and are praising the Lord. We talked to the two pastors in Ft. Myers and though there was some damage, the people are doing pretty well. (Couldn’t get through to them til Sunday.) Have not talked to Sebring yet. So far, everyone seems to be coping OK. Sure appreciate the concern.”

Stefan Bos, in a release through ASSIST News Service, gives a general summary that is excerpted here:

PUNTA GORDA, FLORIDA (ANS) — Churches and Christian relief organizations stepped up efforts Monday, August 16, to prevent an outbreak of disease among over one million Americans, who were left without power and proper sanitation after Florida’s fiercest hurricane in 12 years, which killed at least 16 people.

Several people were reportedly unaccounted for, including church music and youth ministers, their families, and a pastor. Tens of thousands of people in especially coastal areas became homeless since the 145-miles per hour winds of Hurricane Charley smashed ashore on Friday, August 13.

People were seen shifting through the rubble on locations where once their houses or mobile homes stood.

“I feel like I am losing part of my family,” said a woman close to tears. “I have been living here for 11 years, and there are lot memories there,” she told the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), as her husband comforted her.

Bill Horan, President and Chief Operating Officer of the relief group Operation Blessing, told CBN’s The 700 Club that his organization teamed up with the Salvation Army to feed the hungry and give moral support to those in need. He said trucks were delivering food and other supplies, including ice and mobile kitchens to the Salvation Army, the world famous Protestant humanitarian aid organization.

More than 70 Southern Baptist disaster relief units from 11 states had been activated as of mid-afternoon Aug. 16 to assist with cleanup and recovery efforts in southwest Florida in the wake of Hurricane Charley, Baptist Press (BP) reported.

Despite widespread destruction around them, Baptists began counting their blessings outside Eastside Baptist Church in Punta Gorda, Fla., one of the hardest-hit areas, BP noted. “Community service at 11 a.m. Come as you are,” a spray-painted sign reportedly said. As people gathered in the church’s parking lot, United States President George W. Bush apparently passed by in his motorcade, rolled down the window and gave them a thumbs up before continuing his route to survey the damage.

Another Baptist church member, Jim Schaaf, missed his scheduled baptism on August 15 because of the storm. Instead, he and his wife, Joan, spent his birthday and what was to be his baptism day roaming through the deserted and disheveled property of First Baptist Church in Punta Gorda, Fla. the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper said.

Although the main building suffered what appeared to be superficial damage — with the steeple snapped off its base and lying on the roof, the church parsonage seemed to have significant damage, including the loss of a large portion of its second story, a reporter noted.

As of Sunday morning Aug. 15, the whereabouts of the staff ministers and the church pastor, Paul Russell, and his family, was unknown, the newspaper reported.”JUST PRAYING”

Damage of the storm is estimated to run as high as 18 billion dollars.