January 16, 2023

Dear Alaska Baptist Disaster Relief Volunteers,

As I was finishing up this note to our Alaska Baptist Disaster Relief team (DR) members I experienced a pretty firm 4.7 earthquake jolt that centered in Houston Alaska. Once again, I was reminded that our volunteers have continued to prepare for disaster response throughout this past year because we care about people in crisis! I am grateful that we only had one instate crisis response during 2022 that needed a callout. Typhoon Merbok taught us a lot about responding to needs in our off-the-road system villages. With the help of Arctic Barnabus we were able to provide recovery assessment and some funding for Hooper Bay Alaska. Even with our big logistical challenges, I am thankful that Alaska does not have the need for frequent disaster response such as the Southern coastal states and California have experienced! Still, we must be prepared to step into the lives of people following earthquakes, wild fires, floods and much more. Alaska Baptist DR needs to depend on you and other volunteers from your church in 2023! I want to wish you a great year of volunteer ministry and discipleship!

Crisis response ministry through our local Alaska Baptist churches still remains the first priority in all DR training, ongoing conference calls with local, state and national partners and our equipment maintenance! We do what we do to minister alongside your church. I trust that your church will continue to prepare to share God's love during times of great stress. Alaska DR can help your church in 2023! Working together, one key task we share is to encourage your church membership and every cooperating church in your area to be ready to respond in their own community to a local disaster recovery opportunity. In many cases that means you, your church leadership and your fellow DR volunteers need to stand alongside Alaska DR team members, Alaska Emergency Management personnel, FEMA, and VOAD (Volunteers Organized and Active in Disasters) to address human crisis needs with visible or hands-on caring, Christ empowered energy and the courage to tell all Alaskans why we carefully prepare to "bring help, hope and healing."

What do we do now? First, DR is ready to come to your church for what I'm simply calling Annual DR Training. It is almost impossible for us to find a Saturday when you and I might travel, perhaps 100s of miles across this great state, to join 10 to 20 others for volunteer training! This type of training seldom allows key leaders to focus on enlistment of new volunteers which is essential for our success! One solution is to offer Annual DR Training in as many localities as possible, and that your church, hosting an event in your building, could invite other evangelical churches in your region or association to join you. Perhaps next year another church in your area would be the host. These annual updates will always provide the "Basics" to keep volunteers across our huge state certified as credentialed responders and spiritual care volunteers (chaplains). The "Basics" we will offer will always include spiritual care for survivors, local church organization and preparedness with "essentials" storage at church and in homes, how to share your church building in times of need with or without sheltering, communication with your church family during uncertain times, working with local COAD and state Emergency Management and more. The first hour of a local church training event might be for your entire church family to let them know what DR is and does to accomplish our cooperative mission. Then, if we can provide at least three hours of training for those who are already committed to DR or are ready to sign up, we may add one advanced care strategy to your customized training agenda! Your church leadership can help us choose to add - (1) the basics of debris clean-up following a flood or fire, (2) the basics of safe food preparation that meets state mass feeding requirements from your church kitchen or from our food trailer, (3) the basics of shower and laundry management for first responders and/ or displaced homeowners, or (4) the basics of damage recovery assessment (assessing what outside help is needed, if any, and what resources can we obtain such as other VOAD volunteer manpower, help with heavy equipment rentals, or advanced preparation for effective communication with helping agencies. Contact Gary thru our DR website - www.abcdr.org - leaving your name, phone number and email, then suggest a time and I will call you back! Let's talk about when we can meet with your church for recruitment and training!

Second, DR invites you to respond! At this moment 100s of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are offering clean-up, chaplaincy and the gospel message in California and Alabama. Our own DR volunteers learned a lot in 2022 about how to respond to wild fire victims in Colorado and how to respond to flood victims in Florida. Most of what we experienced will apply to ministry here. This training does come with some personal expense (volunteers have to pay their own air travel and required health travel insurance or ask their church to cover it) but a week on the ground offers an unforgettable mission focus, evangelism opportunities and hands-on learning that is far better than three hours in a classroom following a 5 hour drive into Anchorage or Fairbanks. Note that your ground transportation, food and lodging are usually covered by DR during this type of small team response. Yes, we eat what other volunteers cook and we sleep on a cot in the church building, but you may find that God used you to touch a life and prepared you for guiding your church through a crisis ministry! Oh, every time we travel out of state we enlist volunteers who agree to set aside airline travel funds so they can join us in our time of need. Just like we now have those out-of-state names on our callout list, I need to ask you to set aside your own funds for air travel and then contact me about your willingness to travel to the lower 48, or perhaps out of country, to response to a disaster response elsewhere. Contact me at the website - www.abcdr.org - and lets set up a phone visit which is necessary to know where we can send you for this on-the-job training and mission experience.

Finally, let me thank you again for being involved in Alaska Baptist Disaster Relief ministries! Always remember that the Cooperative Program and our State Missions Offering are a part of your church's action plan for financing our state and national DR efforts. SendRelief (SBC DR) and National WMU have offered us 1000s of dollars when needed for our responses such as in Hooper Bay and Stebbins Alaska. Again, thank you for the preparation you have already taken! The training and credentials you have received are still valid, but every day and certainly with every callout team members are learning more and more about how to minister as an effective volunteer responder! I want you to join me in these experiences in 2023 and I ask you to enlist others from your church and other like minded churches around you. In addition to manpower and travel partners I am deeply grateful for the equipment that has been donated to DR over the past two years, including the two trucks and the three trailers. I am also very grateful for the many hand and power tools that were donated during the past year from the Charles and Mary Newton estate, Bodenburg Butte Baptist Church, that have allowed us to equip our Disaster Relief Barn in Wasilla in order to maintain our readiness for response. We have received several other donations including a new chainsaw and 12" table saw. Mission teams remain committed to coming here every year to help us maintain our power equipment such as pressure washers, generators and chain saws.

Now, as we begin 2023, I am consistently asking God to guide our team of prepared and preparing servants when crisis strikes near home.

Serving with you,

Gary Bearce

Alaska Baptist Disaster Relief Coordinator

Disaster Relief Pictures - posted below.

2018 Dodge 3500 and 2018 Ford Transit 350 HD Van
2018 Dodge 3500 and 2018 Ford Transit 350 HD Van
Our Shower and Laundry Tow Vehicle
Our Shower and Laundry Tow Vehicle
2018 Dodge 3500 and Tool Trailer
2018 Dodge 3500 and Tool Trailer
Shower and Laundry Trailer
Shower and Laundry Trailer
Shower and Laundry Unit after roll-over
Shower and Laundry Unit after roll-over
The Big Barn with DR Storage
The Big Barn with DR Storage
Rapid Deployment Tents
Rapid Deployment Tents
Inside the Laundry unit
Inside the Laundry unit