LYNN HAVEN, Fla. — Peter Burmeister, minister of students at Pine Terrace Baptist Church, tries to rub the tiredness from his eyes as he monitors his cell phone for any updates from his volunteers in Lynn Haven. Burmeister is coordinating efforts for the church, which continues to send disaster relief teams to help the victims of Hurricane Michael.
"We are sending teams to clear debris, to wash clothes, distribute water and food, provide hot showers for first responders and emergency operations personnel," Burmeister said. "We also have people providing chaplin services at the local hospitals."
Some volunteers are staying at multiple sites for extended periods; smaller groups are making day trips.
According to Burmeister, all Southern Baptist churches have disaster response teams. Churches not affected by the hurricane are sending them into the Panhandle to meet the need for help. Pine Terrace has partnered with First Baptist Church in Lynn Haven and will concentrate their efforts there.
"There is a mixed bag of needs," Burmeister said. "Some people need a complete rebuild of their property and lives; others just need to get through the day."
Burmeister said the biggest desire is a hot meal. Many in the area do not have power or water.
"The real need will come in about two months. There will still be cleaning up to do and the rebuilding of property and infrastructure starts,” Burmeister said. "We plan on providing assistance for the next year." All of the buildings on the First Baptist site are unusable at this time. So far, 60 sister Southern Baptist churches in the Panhandle have reported damage.
"Right now I'm acting as a mobilizer," Burmeister said. "I am getting people where they need to be and let them do what they do best - serve."
Burmeister suggests three things people do if they want to help.
"Pray, give and go."
The best thing to do is to continue praying for the victims, emergency operation personnel and volunteers, he said. The second, continue to give, due to the long rebuilding process. After a couple of weeks, according to Burmeister, the novelty of giving will decrease. Third, those that can should link up with their church or favorite nonprofit group and volunteer to go there and serve.
"Devastation and destruction can do a lot for the furthering of the gospel," Burmeister said. "It's encouraging to me to hear the stories of faithfulness of believers in the Panhandle. People are responding - they are wanting to be like Jesus."