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Baptists mobilize to help victims of tornadoes — ‘We’ll be there’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As severe weather continued to move through the Midwest and South, Baptist relief workers were in place to help with clean-up efforts following one of the most destructive storm systems in recent years.

At least 37 people have been confirmed dead after numerous tornadoes — more than 80 according to published reports — tore through Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee May 4, 5 and 6.

The following is a state-by-state breakdown of Baptist relief efforts:

— Arkansas: The Arkansas Baptist State Convention dispatched five chain saw teams to Antioch, Ark., about 30 miles northeast of Little Rock, where 100 to 130 homes were estimated to be damaged by a tornado. The teams were expected to help clear trees and other debris. A Red Cross unit was set up at Union Valley Baptist church in Antioch. Another chain saw team was traveling to First Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon in southwest Missouri.

— Kansas: Baptist disaster relief workers from the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists were cooperating with the Red Cross to deliver meals to other workers and people displaced by the storms. Volunteers were on the scene in Pittsburg, Kan., setting up at a church in a mass-feeding effort to a three-county area beginning at lunch May 6.

Other feeding units were traveling from Kansas City, Kan., and Nebraska and were waiting for Red Cross needs assessments to be completed before being assigned.

— Missouri: A chain saw team from the Missouri Baptist Convention was working in Liberty, Mo., to clean up at William Jewell College, which sustained extensive damage from a tornado May 4. Another chain saw team was dispatched to the Pierce City area in southwest Missouri to help in a town devastated by the storm. A quick-response van based at First Baptist Church in Houston, Mo., was delivering water and snacks in the Pierce City area, and a kitchen unit working with the Red Cross was set up at First Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon, Mo.

“There is a tremendous need for our skills,” said Gary Morrow, in charge of disaster relief for the Missouri convention. “It will take a lot of manpower to help with the recovery, and we’ll be there.”

— Tennessee: At West Jackson Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., relief teams from the Tennessee Baptist Convention were preparing about 1,000 meals per day, and the Red Cross was moving a unit including cots and counselors to the church. Local merchants were donating blankets and pillows, and the church’s own disaster relief team was assisting the Red Cross. Two other Tennessee Baptist feeding units were on standby.

Union University offered help to The Jackson Sun after the newspaper’s downtown offices lost electrical power. The Baptist school allowed Sun employees to set up in Union’s administration building in order to construct daily editions. The newspaper was being published at another location. A May 5 editorial in the Sun said, “We thank our friends at Union for their generosity and help.”

Chain saw teams were working near Clarksville, Lexington and Dyersburg and were assessing needs near Franklin and Fayetteville, Tenn. Assessment teams were traveling throughout Middle and West Tennessee May 6 but were being hampered by the heavy rains and severe weather which continued to move through the state.

Oak Hill Baptist Church in Fayetteville, near the Alabama border, was nearly destroyed by a tornado, and the church parsonage was also heavily damaged. Local clean-up crews were assisting.

President Bush expressed condolences to the victims of the tornadoes.

“The federal government will be moving as quickly as we possibly can to provide help where help is needed and where help is justified,” Bush said while speaking in Little Rock, Ark. “Nature is awfully tough at times. The best thing we can do right now is to pray for those who have suffered.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HELPING OUT, KANSAS TWISTER and DEVASTATED.

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  • Erin Curry