Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

SBDR Truck and Trailer

The state of Vermont endured historic flooding in July 2023, the worst since Tropical Storm Irene hit the landlocked state in 2011. Rivers overflowed, with the Winooski in Montpelier cresting at 21.02 feet, the highest since 1927.[1] Two people died, including one hiker on the Appalachian Trial.[2] Local police, fire, and emergency medical services responded, as did the National Guard from Vermont and the surrounding states. The American Red Cross arrived to provide shelter and other services.

Other groups came to Vermont to help, but with much less fanfare, including the Samaritan’s Purse, Salvation Army, and Billy Graham’s chaplains. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief sent hundreds of volunteer responders to help flood victims recover. I joined the West Virginia team in Barre VT, from 23 to 29 July. Led by Ron W and supported by Roy P. (SBDR’s incident commander), our group of eight tackled recovery jobs throughout the region.

Monday – The team removed mud and water (mudout) from a basement in a downtown house, as well as removing debris from the waterlogged first floor. This is hard, heavy, filthy, but important work in the process of making the house livable again. The team also had deep and meaningful conversations.

Tuesday – We mudoutted the house next door to Monday’s house. The couple affected also lost their business, a trailer-based restaurant which the water had completely washed away. The restaurant had been a major part of their livelihood for 30 years. The family worked hard alongside the team, an uncommon response. We spoke at length with two men and two women about their way ahead in life and shared the gospel.

In the afternoon our team went to a house, but the owner was not present. Our task was to remove soaked shelving from the cinderblock basement. The rat feces were ubiquitous and the basement air foul. With masks, gloves, and ear muffs we cleaned it out, carried the debris upstairs, and discarded it for the city trash service.

Wednesday – We removed debris and waterlogged drywall from a house built in 1893 near the flooded river. Sadly, we discovered rot in the frame that was extensive. The damage from previous floods hadn’t been properly remediated and as a result, the house had to be condemned. The homeowner and her boyfriend shared the house, and spent their time selling pottery, tending plants, and recreating with skis, fishing poles, and a canoe. She wanted a change in life and recognized this as an opportunity to make that change. We discussed spirituality, religion, and the Bible, while her boyfriend stood by. We are praying for their future.

In the afternoon, we went to a house in which the older homeowner needed us to clean debris and stored items from her crawlspace. Bees were aplenty, and two of our teammates were stung but without complication. The lady told about her life, innumerable tales of abuse, death, sadness, and exhaustion, through a veil of tears. She and I went through scriptures from Psalms and Lamentations through the Beatitudes.

Thursday – We removed debris and waterlogged drywall from a house. Sadly, the rain was continuous and heavy. The mother, who had been some type of spiritual or religious leader, had called for our help. Her son was vehemently against us since we are a Christian organization. Shortly after we arrived, he drove away and didn’t come back. The rain forced us to move our second task, felling and removing a dangerous tree, to Friday.

Friday – We cut down and removed a partially rotten tree which had shifted perilously close to a house, overhanging gutters, roof, and deck. Ron and the team cleared surrounding bushes and trees, applied tension with a heavy rope to keep the tree from falling on the house, and made the cuts. The tree fell in our intended direction, without hurting anyone or destroying anything.

SBDR worked its recovery magic on churches in addition to owner-occupied houses. We gave a signed Bibles to every homeowner and prayed with each one. We continued praying for them, and many of us will do so in the future.


After the water stops rising and the cameras go away, people in tragedy still need help. SBDR comes and stays for as long as we can to help people recover. We do the expensive work of deconstruction (tear down) so homeowners don’t have to pay for that as well as for restoration. More importantly, we share the love of Jesus Christ in our works and words. We are, after all, the body of Christ.



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