6,100 miles, seven days: On the road with ABHMS disaster response

American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) takes American Baptists on the road with ABHMS Disaster-response Ministries as it assesses the damage and connects with survivors and others on the ground in hurricane-ravaged areas from Louisiana and Texas to Florida and Puerto Rico.

Come along with ABHMS as it takes the first step necessary in helping to rebuild, restore and renew communities and lives severely affected by the recent string of hurricanes in the United States and Puerto Rico.


Day 1, September 26, 2017


American Baptist Home Mission Societies Communications Director Susan Gottshall speaks with Victoria Goff, ABHMS associate director, Mission Advancement and Passionary Movement, while on the road to Lake Charles, La. on day one of a 6,100 mile, seven-day journey with disaster-response ministries to assess the damage and connect with survivors and others on the ground in hurricane-ravaged areas from Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.


American Baptist Home Mission Societies Communications Director Susan Gottshall speaks with Jack Cobb, National Relief Coordinator for American Baptist Men, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where a group of volunteers are currently contributing to the cleanup and restoration of the areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.


American Baptist Home Mission Societies Communications Director Susan Gottshall sits down with Dr. Samuel C. Tolbert Jr., Pastor of Greater St.Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church and President of National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. in Lake Charles, Louisiana about their partnership with ABHMS for disaster relief work.

Day one: A house laid bare

At 79, Harold Monroe is one of 12 American Baptist Men USA (ABMen) volunteers working this week to restore homes in Lake Charles, La., damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Read more.


Day 2, September 27, 2017

American Baptist Home Mission Societies Communications Director Susan Gottshall speaks with Rev. Tim Schwartz, who will lead the American Baptist disaster-response in Texas.


American Baptist Home Mission Societies Communications Director Susan Gottshall speaks with Rev. Eddie Hilliard, executive pastor, missions and pastoral care, First United Methodist Church of Missouri City, Texas. Rev. Hilliard, his family, and his neighbors have been displaced by damage to their homes from Hurricane Harvey, but he speaks to the hope he feels knowing help is on the way from ABHMS volunteers.

Day two: Pieces of debris, pieces of lives

At first glance, Houston appeared much like most other U.S. cities today. The expressways hummed with traffic; stores were filled with busy shoppers; restaurants boasted their neon lights, tempting hungry Houstonians to succumb to barbecue, gumbo and other Cajun fare. A very different city, however, revealed itself as the day wore on. Read more.


Day 3, September 28, 2017


Rev. Vascola Stoney of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church joins American Baptist Home Mission Societies Communications Director Susan Gottshall to discuss the ministry efforts of the church in response to Hurricane Harvey. Following the devastation of the storm, ABHMS quickly released $10,000 of One Great Hour of Sharing funds to the church to support their relief efforts.


Despite losing everything in Hurricane Harvey, Lois Beverly still feels blessed and passes on her happiness as a volunteer at Houston’s Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, American Baptist Home Mission Societies released $10,000 for the church from One Great Hour of Sharing to support their relief efforts.

Day three: Many hands make lighter work

Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church an urban congregation of 16,000 members from across Houston and greater suburbs ended up in disaster-response ministry within days of Harvey’s assault on the area. Church staff launched an online platform that matched members who needed help in Harvey’s aftermath with those who could provide it. The church also established a distribution center to provide water, food, clothing, toys, diapers and other items to displaced families and individuals. Read more.


Day 4, September 29, 2017

American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Salvador Orellana joins Victoria Goff and Susan Gottshall as they head to Puerto Rico to meet with denominational leaders to assess the impact and needs of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

In a powerful interview, Laura Ayala, pastor of First Baptist Church of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, speaks to the devastation, infrastructure challenges and scarcity of desperately needed resources as a result of the impact of Hurricane Maria.

With many lines of communication still crippled, the church has become a communication hub, not only for members of the church, but for all of Rio Piedras. The Red Cross has established a base in the church sanctuary which is currently housing 125 responders.

“The best thing we have seen is the will of people to do something,” Ayala said. “We’re not just going to sit back and wait for the government or FEMA or the municipal government. We are working.”


Day 5, September 30, 2017

Day five: In the wake of Maria’s sound and fury

By the time I left Puerto Rico, after just one day, I had tears in my eyes. What’s happening there is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, multi-layered and complex, which calls out with great urgency for help from American Baptist churches, the United States and the rest of the world. Read more.

Day five: On the road to healing Puerto Rico’s people

Maria made landfall as a Category 4 storm with its sustained winds of 155 m.p.h. and torrential rain. The storm attacked the island’s already weakened infrastructure, and Maria’s power was more than the systems could bear. Now those systems that support day-to-day life have been destroyed, and the people of this tropical island are more vulnerable than ever. American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Disaster Response Ministries has been working around the clock to provide relief. Read more.


Day 6, October 1, 2017

Dr. Wayne G. Thompson, pastor of First Baptist Institutional Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, talks about the impact of Hurricane Irma. The church was granted $5,000 in One Great Hour of Sharing funds to support the congregation and community.


Day 7, October 2, 2017

Dr. Marcus Davidson, senior pastor of New Mount Olive Baptist Church, discusses the impact of Hurricane Irma on the poorest residents of Ft. Lauderdale.

With a $5,000 grant from One Great Hour of Sharing, Mount Olive Development Corporation in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was able to expand the capacity of a vital food program serving those impacted by Hurricane Irma.

Day seven: Is God trying to get our attention?


Irma may have spared First Baptist Institutional Church, but its members didn’t fare as well. The hurricane’s winds downed huge trees across St. Petersburg, some of them ending up in members’ front yards. For one 70-something member living on a fixed income, the huge pieces of dead wood in her front yard are a constant reminder of the cleanup issue now being played out between FEMA and insurance companies. Read more.

After over 6,100 miles of travel, in seven days, to areas devastated by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Susan Gottshall and Victoria Goff offer reflections on what they’ve seen and what comes next as we begin the process of rebuilding, restoring and renewing.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies Communications Director Susan Gottshall reflects on the devastation she witnessed over her 6,100-plus mile journey across Louisiana, Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida surveying the impact of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Ultimately, ABHMS and our partners will provide the resources we can, but what disaster response ministries most wants to deliver is hope.