Here's a video report on the flood relief volunteers who are helping out the Berean and First Spanish SDA churches in Baton Rouge, in serving the community's needs. Video produced by Stephen Ruf, Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, Southern Adventist University.
The NAD Adventist Community Services hosted its Convention this year from September 7-10 at Gladstone, Oregon. It was co-sponsored by the North Pacific Union Conference. The event was widely attended by more than 200 community outreach leaders and volunteers from around the nation and beyond. They were blessed with uplifting music, inspirational messages, informative workshops, and also a sightseeing tour of the main attractions in the area. They also had the privilege to take a tour of the Portland Adventist Community Services Center.
Dr. Sung Kwon, Executive Director of NAD ACS, provided the initial keynote message on the first evening of the convention. Other presenters throughout the event included Bill Knott, Adventist Review editor, Zack Plantak, Professor of Religion & Ethics, Loma Linda University, and May-Ellen and Gaspar Colon, co-authors of the third quarter Sabbath School lessons. Elder Dan Jackson, NAD President, delivered the Friday evening keynote message and the Sabbath morning sermon. On Sabbath afternoon, various outreach ministries provided a short presentation on their programs and activities.
On August 22-25, the NAD Adventist Community Services led out in the National Mass Care Exercise (NMCE), which was developed by the Iowa-Missouri Conference ACS Director, Jody Dickhaut. The purpose is to simulate an actual crisis event and determine how a community would respond during a major disaster. Other NGOs that participated in this unprecedented Exercise included The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), State Emergency Management, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and etc.
Duane Hallock, an Adventist church member, is the Regional Communications Director for the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, Missouri. Being an Adventist, Hallock was quite impressed to see the Church actively involved in serving communities around the nation. "I listened in as Jody Dickhaut conducted his morning briefing, and it was obvious that considerable planning and preparation had already been done. I was given renewed confidence in the ability of Adventists to respond quickly and effectively when needed," says Hallock.
Hallock added, "I always show up on the scene of a disaster and look for “my people” – those wearing red vests. When I showed up for this exercise, I noticed that wherever I looked I also saw a large number of people in golden yellow shirts. As a Seventh-day Adventist, I was filled with pride knowing that these were also “my people” – volunteers with the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response."
Hallock was not only pleased to see the work the Adventist Church is doing, but also with the relationships ACS is developing with our peer organizations. "Once during the drill, I noticed how both groups – those in yellow shirts and those in red vests – were co-mingling. Again, I was overcome with pride as I saw all of “my people” working together seamlessly to serve the humanitarian needs of our hurting world", stated Hallock.
Early Monday (August 29) morning, the NAD ACS Team met up with the ACS workers from Tennessee at the Distribution Center, and spoke with them about about how their home churches and some counties had supported them in their plans to help with the Relief work in Louisiana. The discussion also involved reviewing a listing of the homes affected that had been prepared by the local ACS leadership, and outlining them in a manner that would ensure the most effective use of the resources. The discussion with the team from Tennessee was followed by another discussion with the American Red Cross Team led by Director Carlos.
The different groups that were actively involved in the Recovery Efforts touched on some of the shortfalls that they had experienced in the last few days. For example, the Red Cross highlighted some of their concerns with the donated “stuff’ that had been given to them. In the afternoon, conference calls were held for our Union Directors and some of our other Conference Directors/Coordinators to discuss the continued work in Louisiana. "This interaction will create opportunities for collaborative support of our team on the ground and we’ll follow-up upon my return to the home office," says W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS Disaster Response Director.
Presently, the local Southwest Regional and Arkansas-Louisiana Conferences are scheduling volunteers to serve in both the Warehouse and the Wellness Center. As these plans are being formulated, the local community continues to keep an eye on the weather reports. In the last six months, Louisiana has been hit by a Tornado in February, a major flooding in the Spring when 40 of the 64 Parishes were affected to experiencing this latest flooding. Forecast reports are now calling for a possible Hurricane that is predicted to devastate the State again.
Please, let us keep the State of Louisiana in our thoughts and prayers, for their protection and safety as they encounter such weather-related tragedies.
On August 28 early morning (Sunday), ACS continued its Recovery Efforts by starting the day off at the Warehouse in Baton Rouge, by taking in supplies from around the region and distributing them appropriately. A letter from the State of Louisiana (see link below) was sent to all the public and non-governmental organizations, informing them about the ACS-operated Warehouse. "We believe the push from the State will lead to a continual increase in the amount of goods received at the facility run by our team for the community affected," says W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS Disaster Response Director.
In addition to the ACS members, they were also able to negotiate an agreement with the Federal Government to use VISTA workers at the Warehouse. This group is made up of young people from around the country who volunteer their services for as many as 12 months to public service. They were able to get hold of ten of these workers who have worked in partnership with our ACS staff and volunteers to help transform two empty buildings into functional Warehouses that will serve Louisiana for many months. On the same day, a 6-member team of ACS workers from Nashville, TN had arrived. They were directed to their sleeping quarters where they will reside for the next week. This group has partnered with the Southwest Regional Conference and agreed to use their skills, equipment and abilities to clean homes in the Baton Rouge area.
In addition to the work at the Warehouse, ACS continues its Shelter and Distribution Center operation on Osborne Avenue in Baton Rouge. ACS is providing meals, cots, and even entertainment for the children. Southwest Regional Conference is providing this service through the ACS Director Durandel Ford. Several individuals have signed up to offer their assistance for this cause. The commitment shown by such people whose homes had not been affected was humbling and truly showed the spirit that Christ asks of us.
STEAM Ahead @ Discovery Junction is one of the latest outreach ministries of Adventist Community Services in the Upper Columbia Conference. This six-month old ministry constitutes of an after-school enrichment program, as well as summer camp learning opportunities every year. STEAM is an integration program that will engage students hands-on in the field of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. They've had a six-week course for two hours a day that included Forensic Science, Biology, and Lego Robotics. The students have also planted 4 x 4 gardens which are producing successfully. Other activities include music, games, arts and crafts, building bird houses, character-building activities, and etc.
Now that public schools have started for the new school year, the program will get going once again. A local engineering firm has offered to regularly send engineers to teach a segment probably once a month. They have also included programs for senior citizens and English language study lessons for non-native speakers. "Since Discovery Junction houses 12 new computers, I see potential for ESL classes or Eldercare enrichment," says Patty Marsh, ACS Director of Upper Columbia Conference. The Spokane Better Living Center now includes a fall-prevention exercise class that meets twice a week for their over 60 age group (Eldercare).
After receiving the Compassion Grant of $15,000 from the NAD Ministerial Department to continue making a difference in the community, they would like to make a promotion video in the next few months. They are excited about their new venture and are looking for volunteers who could offer their assistance and expertise in various activities, so Discovery Junction can expand. Click here to read more about the program: http://www.uccsda.org/News/News2016-08-17
The North American Division Adventist Community Services is currently (August 22 - 25) leading out in the National Mass Care Exercise, which is taking place in Missouri, along with the States of Iowa and Nebraska. The purpose is to simulate an actual crisis event in size and scope, and determine how we would respond as a community during a major disaster that may strike these areas in the future. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), State Emergency Management, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and several other NGOs have joined together to conduct this Mass Care Exercise. The Iowa-Missouri Conference ACS Director, Jodi Dickhaut, has played a role in developing this exercise for the past year.
During this event, NAD has been involved in representing Disaster Response in Jefferson City, MO at the Emergency Operations Center. There were approximately 100 individuals representing different agencies, that simulated the resources they could bring to play in a live situation. The drawbacks of the exercise were taken note of and will be addressed. With similar related operations taking place all over the State, ACS gathered support personnel from Iowa-Missouri, Central States, and Rocky Mountain Conferences in different parts of the State, culminating with the Mass Care Exercise event in Independence, MO at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. About 500 individuals have arrived and will serve in various roles as assigned by the organizers at the Arena, 100 of who are ACS volunteers.
This is the largest event of its size ever planned in the United States. The significance of this operation is witnessed by other state authorities and the Federal Government as well. Representatives from around the country have sent personnel to observe and capture how this Exercise is being conducted. After this Exercise, reports will be used to create plans for others in State Emergency Management offices around the nation. The Adventist Community Services Disaster Response Team, led by W. Derrick Lea, plans on working in a collaborative manner to share the information acquired with each of our conferences. "The intent is to get better at helping those experiencing crisis in an intentional way," stated Lea. Dr Sung Kwon, NAD ACS Director, expressed his excitement about the involvement of the Adventist Church with the Conference ACS leaders and volunteers. Kwon stated, "This is a great opportunity to serve and educate the communities in disaster response situations, also to be recognized as a vital team player to support the efforts as Adventist Church."
Below is an outline of the Louisiana flood recovery efforts in the past week (August 15 - 21):
- Opened up two shelters to house individuals whose homes have been damaged
- Delivered food to families for the week
- Agreement for two facilities signed with State
- Secured Warehouse space from State in Baton Rouge
- Invitational Travel reimbursement being finalized with the State
- Crisis Care workers prepared to travel to Louisiana
- Organized secure lodging for volunteers.
The Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church's Wellness Center has become the distribution hub of donated goods for the flood survivors. It is located in Baton Rouge and is led by Lyn Hykeim. The Warehouse will be operated in three-month segments. The ACS mobile unit was out at the Berean SDA Church Wellness Center last week, which served around 108 families. The Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas Conference, under the leadership of Lavida Whitson, has provided comfort and personal hygiene kits along with blankets.
There are several other churches and groups who are lending their assistance and support for this cause. The Clio Place Baptist Church at New Orleans will be providing water and other needed items. The West bank United Seventh-day Adventist Church will again loan their church van for pickups and deliver items to the Wellness Center. The Spanish Church at Metairie will also be assisting with personal hygiene items and comfort kits under the direction of Katia Costa. A group from the South Central Conference, led by Pr. Williams Little, will be bringing in supplies, dump trucks, mobile units and at least 25 volunteers who will be housed at the Wellness Center/ school. They have tremendously helped us in the past to gut houses and clean them of debris, as well as with other tasks. They have expressed their desire and willingness to come out and help with the flood situation in Louisiana.
Items for donation include: baby clothes and supplies, disposable diapers for children and adults, bottled water, non- perishable food items, slightly used and new clothing, brand new underwear, shoes and socks, brand new flip-flops, cleaning supplies, bed linen/towels, school supplies, and etc.
Monetary donations are also accepted at www.mysouthwestregion.org.
Send a check to:
ArkLa Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
PO Box 31000
Shreveport, LA 71130
A federal disaster declaration has been issued for over 20 parishes in the state of Louisiana. These historic floods that have even inundated areas that don't normally flood, have been caused by river and bayou overflow and constant heavy downpours. Latest reports indicate that around 30,000 homes and businesses have been destroyed and at least 200,000 people displaced in shelters, hotels, or living with relatives. There are 11 people identified as dead, but several who are still missing. Currently, there is a curfew in affected areas (10:00 p.m. - 6:00 a.m.) for fear and prevention of looting. The victims have been urged by the state government to apply for FEMA Disaster services.
The Greater New Orleans and other Adventist Churches have donated clothing to the New Orleans Sheriff Department, led by Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Sr. The Southwest Region Conference ACS DR Team, led by Coordinator Irene Williams, has picked up food items, pampers, personal hygiene supplies, bed linen, adult disposable diapers, etc. Many of these items are being brought to the Westbank Seventh-day Adventist Church located in New Orleans, which will then be brought to the Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church for distribution. Westbank Church has purchased a bus and is waiting for its approval to transport the donated items from Berean Church to Baton Rouge. There are plans underway of a Warehouse operation in Baton Rouge. Assistance would be needed in unloading, stocking, and distributing the donated goods. There are also inquiries as to living quarters for volunteers who may be coming in to assist.
Items for donation include: baby clothes and supplies, disposable diapers for children and adults, bottled water, non- perishable food items, slightly used and new clothing, brand new underwear, shoes and socks, brand new flip-flops, cleaning supplies, bed linen/towels, school supplies, and etc. Monetary donations are also accepted at www.mysouthwestregion.org.
Intense wildfires raged through the State of California over the weekend, resulting in significant amount of loss and damage. The official estimate on the Clayton fires in Lake County as of Aug 16 (Tuesday) morning is: 4,000 acres, 20% contained, & 175 structures destroyed. This is significant in that it has been only 5% contained for a few days and the size remains about the same! Damin Anthony Pashilk (40), who is suspected of starting the fires, is charged with 17 counts of arson in Lake County including the 4,000 acres.
Fire teams across northern California are deploying strike teams to attempt to extinguish the fires as soon as possible. NAD ACS Disaster Response director, W. Derrick Lea, will be meeting with Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) to coordinate assistance for Recovery efforts from other faith based organizations. Several schools and Adventist churches in Lake County are actively involved in the Clayton Fire Evacuation Centers, providing support and assistance for the evacuees. The Lakeport Church has opened its doors to the survivors and had about 15 individuals on the first night. They are being assisted by the Red Cross. The Middletown Adventist Church and Kelseyville High School have also agreed to allow the Red Cross to house volunteers.
Please let us remember the families and survivors that are going through this tragedy.