Baptist Organization Provides Relief for Hurricane Victims

Ed Laiscell | 1/7/2009, 10 p.m.

In September 2008, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike caused tremendous devastation in the Galveston area of Texas. The hurricanes caused millions of dollars worth of damage and left thousands of families homeless, without employment, food, or the necessities of life. Three months later, the area remains unchanged and many families are still homeless and without resources.

When Hurricane Gustav struck, the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. (NBCA) was having a convention in the area. Before Hurricane Ike could make landfall, however, the organization had already made the decision to provide as much relief as possible to the families and churches affected by the storms.

€The Texas area was affected by Ike and Gustav similar to how Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast,€ said Rev. Dr. Stephen Thurston, president of NBCA. €We knew something needed to be done, so I called on the membership of the organization and they responded.€

The membership began raising money to provide relief to those families affected by the storms. Since that time, NBCA churches and members have responded by raising over $200,000 to establish Resurrection Center, which will help displaced residents rise from the devastation they have experienced.

€The center will have counselors, social workers, and workers to provide direction to the families. They need to know where to go and who to go to for help,€ Rev. Thurston said.

€In addition to raising funds for the center, members are also providing resources so we can subsidize salaries of those pastors whose churches were totally devastated by the storms.€
Resurrection Center is located inside the Westpoint Missionary Baptist Church in Galveston. It was officially opened Dec. 10 and will provide food and clothing. Lillie Wheat, coordinator of the center, said the center is working feverishly to obtain coats and sweaters to keep people warm during the winter months.

When Rev. Thurston announced the need for support, member churches in Maryland immediately responded, said Rev. Ray Cotton, Northeastern Region Director for the NBCA.

€We raised about $15,000 as part of the initial response,€ Cotton said. €We asked every pastor, church, and member to pledge donations on a monthly basis.€

There are 30 churches in Maryland that belong to the NBCA.

The National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. is a fellowship of voluntary churches with approximately three million African American Baptists. It is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Rev. Thurston has been president of the organization for the past five years. The 56-year-old pastors the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Ill.