NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The latest disaster relief statistics released by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions show that more than 8,400 Southern Baptist volunteers from 10 states have been deployed following the tornado aftermath in the state.
More significantly, disaster relief personnel reported 38 professions of faith in Christ as a result of their interactions with residents thus far.
Among other stats released by the Alabama state convention:
— More than 200,000 meals have been served by disaster relief volunteers, and seven mass feeding units have been deployed.
— More than 900 chainsaw jobs have been completed, and 365 critical incident stress management chaplains have served 5,292 people, the board of missions said May 11.
— One temporary child care unit was deployed, and 120 children had been assisted. In schools, 350 child crisis response clients had been served.
— Twenty-two shower units have been deployed, and nearly 4,000 showers had been logged in addition to nearly 1,200 loads of laundry.
The board of missions emphasized that the numbers do not include the hundreds of spontaneous volunteers from Alabama churches and the more than 30 distribution centers across the state. They simply are official disaster relief tallies.
In Louisiana, residents expect the surging Mississippi River to threaten levees protecting populated areas.
Mitch Minson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lake Providence, La., explained that as water pressure builds on the earthen levees, weak spots leave the levees vulnerable. National Guardsmen have been stacking sandbags around those spots to counteract the danger.
The old levee at Lake Providence, built in 1912, was overcome May 12 and 13,000 acres of farmland were flooded. A newer levee, built after the 1937 flood, is expected to hold and prevent further flooding.
In Vidalia, La., the Mississippi River was at 59.8 feet May 13. The previous record was 58 feet.
“They’re expecting 64 feet,” Bill McCullin, pastor of First Baptist Church in Vidalia, said. “It’s just a matter of watching and waiting. As far as preparations, the community has done everything it can do.”
The first Louisiana Disaster Relief unit is in place, according to Gibbie McMillan, director of Louisiana’s disaster relief operations. It’s a laundry and shower unit set up at First Baptist Church in New Roads, south of the Morganza Spillway and north of Baton Rouge, for use by National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers personnel.
“The trigger they’re waiting on [before opening the Morganza Spillway to decrease the water level] is that the water flow rate reaches 1.5 million cubic liters per second. It was 1.42 as of yesterday,” McMillan said early Friday morning. “It’s going to flood even before they open the Morganza.
“It will drop the water level in Baton Rouge and New Orleans by two feet, but it’s going to flood 3 million acres and 25,000 people, primarily in the Achefalaya Basin,” McMillan said. “Eight directors of missions and all the churches in those associations will be affected by the flooding.”
All shower, feeding and mud-out units affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention are on alert, McMillan said.
Recent flooding along the Black River and its tributaries damaged three Arkansas Baptist churches. More than two feet of water inundated Shannon Baptist Church in Pocahontas following heavy rains May 1-2. The church sustained extensive damage including destroyed pews, flooring and drywall. Floodwaters have receded, and church members and other volunteers have begun to clean up.
Also in the Current-Gaines Baptist Association, First Baptist Church in Success, Ark., and Calvary Baptist Church in Corning, Ark., sustained damage.
The damage to First Baptist Success was limited to flooring after storms deposited more than an inch of water, said Don Settles, the director of missions.
Calvary Baptist’s old fellowship hall was damaged, but the building was already scheduled for demolition. A week prior to the flooding, the church moved into a new educational facility across the street, which was not damaged.
Banks Baptist Church in Hardy, Ark., was damaged by floodwaters. Near Martin Creek, the church was left with at least six inches of mud after floodwaters subsided, said Brent Powell of the Black River Baptist Association. Church members resumed services in the building after removing flooring and cleaning the church.
Current-Gaines Baptist Association’s feeding unit was dispatched to nearby Neelyville, Mo., and completed service May 6. The Calvary Baptist Association feeding unit was providing meals in Des Arc, Ark., which was hard hit by flooding.
Experts indicate flooding may continue in Arkansas for some time. The National Weather Service reported the Mississippi River crested May 10 in Memphis at 47.8 foot. It was expected to crest in Arkansas City at 53.5 feet May 15.
Based on reports by Karen Willoughby of the Baptist Message in Louisiana and Lisa Watson of the Arkansas Baptist News. Donations to disaster relief can be made to state conventions or through the North American Mission Board. To donate to NAMB’s disaster relief fund, go to www.namb.net and hit the “donate now” button. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Checks should be designated for “Southern Storms 2011.” Donations can also be sent via texting “NAMBDR” to the number “40579.” A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller’s mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.