The devastation brought by Hurricane Ian has left me asking, what if it had been us? What if Ian had taken the projected trajectory, and Tampa Bay suffered a direct hit by the eye of that intense storm?

The city of Tampa would have flooded, and the hospitals on Davis Island would have suffered unimaginable damage. Town N’ Country, where homes were built in the 1960’s and 1970’s, would potentially be destroyed as much by wind as by water. No doubt, our northern suburbs would have fared better, but the toll on our homes and the potential loss of lives and property would be nothing short of a nightmare.

Within two to three days our communities would not only be without electricity, but water supplies greatly compromised. Grocery stores and businesses overrun, falling short of keeping up with the demands of desperate customers.

So, I ask again, what if it were us, and we were in dire straits instead of our neighbors to the south? Like they, we would be desperate for someone to come, and have compassion on our families, neighbors, and church.

Some might say, let the federal and state governments assist. Yet, as of this past weekend, neither FEMA or the Red Cross were working in the affected areas. By the way, the same was true when Hillsdale sent the first relief teams to the Panhandle after Hurricane Michael landed in 2018. We worked with Operation Renewed Hope, and set up a distribution center in a church in that area for days prior to any help from the government.

What can you do?

You can contribute financially to those giving aid and distributing supplies in the most devastated areas. Hillsdale Baptist Church is purchasing and gathering supplies, and our first relief team will leave the church today at 12 noon. I trust this will be the first of several trips in the next weeks. We are coordinating our efforts with Operation Renewed Hope (ORH), a disaster relief ministry with which we have worked for several years. You can designate financial gifts to ORH online, as well as to Hillsdale. Please make sure you indicate Florida Relief effort. One hundred percent (100%) of your financial gifts will go to the relief effort.

The need for basic goods is unimaginable. Things we take for granted, but necessary, are unavailable in the areas south of Tampa.

1) All paper goods- paper plates, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products

2) Cleaning supplies- disinfectant wipes, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, soap, dish detergent

3) Cases of water

4) Clean clothing for all ages

5) Trash bags for garden waste

6) Plastic ware – forks, spoons, knives

7) Tents – any size

8) Rubber boots for working in waste water areas

9) Gloves

10) 5-gallon containers of gas for generators, chainsaws, etc

11) Fix-A-Flat aerosol spray cans

12) Cases of canned meats and vegetables

13) Hand held can openers

14) Matches or lighters

15) Blankets

I pray not, but an event like Hurricane Ian may one day come to Tampa Bay. If that occurs, I trust the Lord will bless us with people who have compassion to send aid to us and our community.

In his epistle to the churches, the apostle John wrote an exhortation that should move all believers: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17–18).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church
6201 Ehrlich Rd.
Tampa, FL 33625

Church Office # 813-884-8250

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith