By Joe Conway
ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) chaplains offered aid to the classmates of an 8-year-old tornado victim in Mississippi last week. Hundreds of SBDR volunteers were at work over the weekend clearing up damage from tornadoes, high winds and flooding across 13 states.
The body of Tyler Tucker was found three days after a tornado destroyed his Louisville, Miss., home, according to published reports. His parent’s bodies were found a half mile from where their home once stood the same day the tornado hit, April 28.
“Chaplain John Temple was able to go to the school and speak to his classmates,” said Donna Swarts, Mississippi Baptist Convention Board childcare coordinator. “The day before that chaplain Charles Light was also able to visit in the school. Our chaplains have had the opportunity to serve people who are in great need.” Temple served with the chaplain team that responded to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Swarts reported that in addition to Mississippi SBDR volunteers serving in the hardest hit areas of Brandon, Columbus, Louisville and Tupelo, three chainsaw teams from Louisiana were also serving in the state.
Arkansas SBDR director Joe Garner said eight chainsaw and clean up teams were working in the Mayflower and Vilonia areas May 2. Teams planned to concentrate on clean up over the weekend.
“We have 250 volunteers ready to go to work Saturday,” said Garner. “These storms were so strong that the slabs were swept clean by the wind. There is very little chainsaw work to do. It is mainly clearing debris.”
Assessors were still working in Lincoln County, Tenn., Friday. Job requests were continuing to come to state leaders.
“We have five assessors working today,” said David Acres, Tennessee Baptist Convention SBDR director. “We have 30 job requests and expect more. But much like Arkansas, most of the homes here were completely destroyed. There is little to do even in recovery. Everything is gone.”
Missouri SBDR director Dwaine Carter, who returned from rebuild efforts in the Philippines May 2, reported that mud out units were working in response to flooding in the southeast corner of the state. Teams were also active in Florida and North Carolina in response to storms in those states. Since April 26, destructive storms have affected 13 states.
North American Mission Board (NAMB) Disaster Relief Executive Director Fritz Wilson praised the service of SBDR volunteers. SBDR volunteers were active in at least six states over the weekend, Wilson said.
“This is one of the many things that DR volunteers do so well,” said Wilson. “In the immediate response, they are there. The physical help is tremendous. The presence of someone who cares truly helps. It begins the healing process for survivors. And then the long-term nature of our volunteers’ service, in places like the Philippines and New York and New Jersey, that continued presence eventually brings hope.”
Those wishing to donate to SBDR storm relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visithttp://donations.namb.net/dr-donations. 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 82,000 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.
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.