Texas Baptists meet needs as Rio Grande threatens Presidio

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PRESIDIO—When a surge in the Rio Grande forced the evacuation of several hundred homes in Presidio and flooded 350 homes across the border in Ojinaga, Texas Baptists responded.

Rains upriver rapidly increased the river’s water level in the area, cracking one of the levees in Ojinaga. While the waters have receded a bit, additional rain was forecasted upriver, creating the possibility of more flooding.

BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett (left) and Robert Cuellar, congregational strategist in West Texas, fill sand bags in Presidio to reinforce the levees that are keeping floodwaters at bay in the community. BGCT PHOTO/Ferrell Foster

The uncertainty has pushed 60 Presidio residents into shelters, and many others moved in with relatives in the area.

“We’re better off than we were. We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Ed Jennings, Big Bend Baptist Association director of missions who is part of the relief efforts as a chaplain to the first responders such as military personnel, firefighters and police officers.

Recently he was able to minister to first responders by helping lead a memorial service for four people who died in a plane crash while scouting the damage along the border. He continues helping them work through their grief.

During the Rio de Esperanza kick off to Texas Hope 2010—an initiative to share the gospel with every Texan by Easter 2010 and to meet human need—Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board staff leaders pitched in by filling sandbags for the levees and donating more than 200 pocket radios.

The radios will provide critical help for people in needing warning in case a levee breaks stateside, said Carlos Nieto, chairman of the Persidio School Board. The only source of information in Spanish for Presidio residents is a Mexico radio station.

The BGCT also is providing $2,500 for relief work in Ojinaga.

“Something as simple as a cheap AM/FM radio could save a life here,” Nieto said.

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BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett applauded the hard work of the people of Persidio who have come together in a time of crisis.

“Texas Baptists are praying for you, as are other churches across the state,” he said.

Nieto thanked Everett for the prayers and the radios, noting churches will play a key role in the recovery effort.

“When the state and federal agencies leave, I think faith-based organizations are going to have to step it up,” he said.

A video report concerning the flooding can be seen here .

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