By Joe Conway
ALPHARETTA (BP) — Deadly storm systems slashed across the nation over the holidays killing scores and bringing rapid response from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers. In Texas alone, eight people were killed and more than 800 dwellings were damaged or destroyed by tornadoes that struck the day after Christmas in Dallas. The rain accompanying the storm systems has the Mississippi River and its tributaries at flood stage.
North American Mission Board SBDR interim executive director Mickey Caison described the response as all too reminiscent of historic flooding that hit the St. Louis area in 1993. As of Monday, Jan. 4, 11 states had volunteers serving at ministry sites in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Also on Monday (Jan. 4), NAMB dispatched equipment to assist flood survivors in Arkansas, Illinois, and Missouri.
“The lives of so many families and communities are forever changed,” Caison said. “Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is so much larger and has so much more experience today to be able to bring help, healing, and hope.”
NAMB president Kevin Ezell said, “Our prayers go out to the survivors and volunteers across our nation. Many volunteers sacrificed time with their own families at Christmas to serve others.”
“And they did it with the same kindness and compassion that they always bring to relief ministry,” he added.
Missouri Baptist Convention state disaster relief director Dwain Carter said the storm system that dumped rain across the state followed the I-44 corridor from the southwest corner of the state into the metro St. Louis area. Carter anticipates serving at least 1,000 homeowners in the response.
“We served our first meal on New Year’s Eve,” said Carter of the first of four feeding units now operating in the state. “We are in day five now at First Baptist Church, Ellisville in suburban St. Louis. We have feeding units operational around St. Louis at Central Baptist in Eureka, First Baptist, Arnold, and at First Baptist Church in Diamond near Joplin.”
Carter reported Missouri volunteers, now 125 strong, will soon be joined by SBDR teams from the Southern Baptists of Texas, Texas Baptist Men, Kansas-Nebraska, Kentucky, and Tennessee. NAMB SBDR coordinator Eddie Blackmon is serving with Carter’s command team.
“We have chaplains and assessors already working,” Carter said. “I know we will serve at least 1,000 survivors who had homes damaged. Our chaplains have had great opportunity to minister to people at temporary shelters. They are reporting a great response. Our working relationship has been solid with all the municipalities. We appreciate people’s prayers and support.”
Caison also asked for prayers. “Please pray for the southern states responding to the tornadoes as well as those responding to the floods,” he said. “We know our Lord will inspire our volunteers to mobilize. We will be sending resources for a long-term response. Mississippi and Tennessee are planning for potential flood responses there, as well. And all of this with active tornado responses in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Oklahoma. Please pray.”
NAMB is dispatching a mobile command center, a portable generator, and two mud-out units to St. Louis. Today, two semi-truck loads with supplies will leave NAMB, one bound for Arkansas and Illinois, the other Missouri. Ongoing recovery efforts continue in South Carolina, where collegiate volunteers aided in flood remediation ministry in the state over the Christmas break.
“The lives of so many families and communities are forever changed. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is so much larger and has so much more experience today to be able to bring help, healing, and hope.”
Greg Forbes, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel, reported at least 55 tornadoes struck the nation during the span of days from Dec. 23-28.
Those wishing to donate to SBDR efforts can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit NAMB’s donation page. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild, and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.