Baptists respond to weekend tornadoes

Baptist Press
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Posted: Apr 28, 2014 4:22 PM
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP) -- As residents of the South and Midwest braced for violent storms Monday (April 28), Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were already responding to weekend tornadoes in Arkansas, Oklahoma and other states.

Tornadoes Sunday (April 27) killed 15 or more people according to various media reports and cut a 100-mile path of destruction through Arkansas. Much of the damage happened as darkness fell, making it difficult to fully assess damage and fatalities.

The hardest hit area in the suburbs of Little Rock was the focus of continued search and recovery efforts Monday as SBDR volunteers prepared to serve hot meals to rescuers and storm survivors.

"We have dispatched one feeding unit to Vilonia (north of Little Rock) to prepare meals for the search and rescue crew and the first responders," Joe Garner, state Disaster Relief director for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, said. "This is still an active search and recovery operation, so we will continue to assess the situation and expect to be able to begin sending in teams in the next day or two. We are attempting to get an idea of what we will be facing and put our arms around how we will begin to serve."

The feeding unit, located at Beryl Baptist Church of Vilonia, is expected to begin serving meals Monday evening, said J.D. "Sonny" Tucker, ABSC executive director.

"Our disaster relief units are on the ground and others are waiting for notifications from local authorities," Tucker said. "Arkansas Baptists will be a part of rebuilding lives and reestablishing hope. Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected by the storms."

In addition to the feeding unit, several Arkansas chainsaw disaster relief units have been put on alert, but are not being allowed in the affected areas at this time since search and rescue operations are ongoing.

Arkansas convention leaders are partnering with local churches to collect "buckets of love," consisting of a plastic five-gallon bucket packed with items useful to survivors. For more information about bucket items, go to www.absc.org and click on the "Buckets of Love" button.

SBDR volunteers will transport supplies to victims that include roofing tarp, wood strips and bottled water.

"We will be assisting Joe Garner in the assessment and then provide whatever help is needed," Fritz Wilson, North American Mission Board disaster relief team executive director, said. "It looks like Oklahoma will likely handle their response in state. Missouri may provide some assistance in Kansas. The state convention disaster relief warehouse in Jefferson City, Mo., is a staging area for DR supplies."

The storms were the worst to date this spring, impacting communities struck by tornadoes only three years ago.

In related outreach, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, fellow churches and various faith-based groups and companies have partnered to produce a documentary focusing on God's compassion in the face of natural disasters.

"Where Was God? Stories of Hope After the Storm," will premiere May 16 at the Moore Warren Theater in Moore, Okla. Showings will be available throughout the country via the documentary's website at http://wherewasgod.com.

"Our goal with this film is to showcase faith, hope and the ability to overcome after life's storms -- whether they be literal or figurative," Steven Earp, the film's executive producer and lead pastor at Elevate Church in Oklahoma City, said.

To support SBDR, make donations through local Baptist state conventions, online at https://donations.namb.net/dr-donations, by phone at 866-407-NAMB (6262) or by mailing checks designated "Disaster Relief" to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.

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.

North American Mission Board staff compiled this story. Baptist Press and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention also contributed to this story. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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