Southern Baptists have set up six disaster relief sites across the South since a Dec. 10-11 storm front spawned multiple tornadoes throughout the region. With four sites in Kentucky, two in Arkansas, one in Missouri and local responses taking place in Tennessee, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts are underway to help survivors in the storm recovery.
“The massive amount of damage and the scope of need is almost beyond comprehension in communities stretching almost 200 miles, but Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers have been amazing in response,” said Coy Webb, crisis response director for Send Relief, the compassion ministry of Southern Baptists.
“Many of those leaders and volunteers were on the ground in the first 24 hours and continue to respond as they provide help and hope to those reeling across Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas,” Webb said.
Kentucky endured the highest death toll from the storm – 74 of the 88 fatalities – and dozens more people are reported missing. The toll is expected to rise.
First Baptist Church in Murray, Ky., will host the SBDR volunteer teams who will be responding in Mayfield and the surrounding area. Glenn Hickey, the SBDR incident command leader, told Kentucky Today that the people who survived the tornado continue to experience shock.
In the wake of this disaster, volunteers will have the opportunity to provide physical help and spiritual hope.
“They certainly go through the stages of grief. When the shock is gone – and it’s getting gone now – reality sets in,” Hickey said. “The soul is broken. The spirit is broken. … If we do our job right and act right, it opens a door to pray with them and share Jesus with them.”
Wes Fowler, pastor of First Baptist Church Mayfield, spoke to his congregation Sunday, Dec. 12, in their church building — which, though heavily damaged, remained standing while several other buildings had been crushed.
“In the middle of the storm, there’s only one place where we truly have peace, and that’s when we place our faith and our trust in Jesus,” Fowler told his people, according to a video by The Washington Post.
Other Kentucky Baptist churches will host SBDR teams in Benton, Princeton and Bowling Green for the response that will likely last weeks if not months. On Tuesday morning, Dec. 14, Send Relief sent a shipment of resources including roofing materials, emergency food and other disaster relief supplies from its warehouse in Ashland, Ky., to service the SBDR sites throughout the state.
Volunteers with Arkansas SBDR began preparing meals, providing chainsaw work and affixing temporary roofing to damaged homes early in the week. Local teams in Tennessee have been providing relief work while Tennessee SBDR leaders continue assessing needs.
SBDR relief efforts in Kentucky will continue in the states affected by the December storms, and the best way to help for those unable to volunteer is by donating funds. Donations can be made either directly to local state SBDR teams or to Send Relief, who will continue supplying resources to SBDR volunteer teams as needed.
— Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.