Since March 487 new and 799 returning volunteers were trained in disaster preparedness in specialties such as mass feeding cleanup, recovery administration, temporary childcare, emergency response, water services, spiritual care and emergency services chaplaincy.
These workers are among 6,500 trained Florida Baptist disaster relief volunteers who are ready to respond when a crisis strikes.
Ongoing training is critical for all volunteers due to a new requirement by emergency management officials that only credentialed volunteers are allowed to work in a disaster response area. Southern Baptists, among the top three disaster response organizations in the nation along with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, are among the official agencies authorized to provide credentials.
The groundbreaking South Florida training held May 4 at the Florida Baptist Convention’s Urban Impact Center in Hialeah brought 200 workers who were trained concurrently in Portuguese, French Creole, Spanish, as well as English, a first among Southern Baptists.
Al Fernandez, director of the Urban Impact Center said the training in multiple languages was significant to the work of Florida Baptists who worship in 26 languages each Sunday.
“First, it reflects and promotes Southern Baptist diversity. We are inclusive in church membership and ministry involvement. It is a testimony to non-believers that in Christ we are all one, doing His work together,” said Fernandez.
Secondly, it enables us to be more effective during an actual disaster by having people on the ground who can communicate in a variety of languages. Together we are better.”
Florida Convention employee Delton Beall, team strategist/state disaster relief director, who took the helm of the Florida Baptist disaster relief organization in 2012, called the training “a huge step.”
“We desire to engage all of our churches with resources and tools to be ready responders in the event of a disaster. Our multi-cultural churches can play key roles in our ministry outreach and impact if they are ready to respond.”
Beall said the multi-language training focused on supporting churches with materials in “their heart language while identifying leaders who can marshal their churches in a disaster response.”
Adrian Roman, a member of First Hispanic Plantation Church, promoted the training in Hispanic churches in Broward County. Having worked in law enforcement while employed in the oil industry Roman was served on disaster response teams.
He believed the training would help his church’s small and untrained group. He also coordinates the church’s mission work in Haiti, Dominican Republic and Cuba, “and contributed in a small way to the Haiti relief efforts.”
Joseph Gaston, strategist for the Convention’s language church development team, said Haitian churches are becoming increasingly interested and “engaged in this compassionate ministry.
“The training has provided a platform for extending our community outreach through meeting needs, sharing Christ. The expertise of our conference leaders in the field, and the content as well as the diversity in delivery have been received as a Kingdom value added for fleshing out the Gospel through deeds.
Gaston said one Haitian participant shared that after the training he could be more confident and active in sharing his faith through the ministry of compassion and love.
Participation in the five locations held so far are: Miami, 200; St. Augustine, 351; Wauchula, 160; Lake City, 184; and Lake Yale, 391.
The final training for 2013 will be held June 22 at First Baptist Church in Marianna. Click here for more information.