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Churches reach out to Tennessee flood victims

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Churches and Baptist associations across Middle Tennessee are reaching out to members and residents who were impacted by a record-setting flood that damaged thousands of houses, killed a dozen people statewide and even shut down sections of three interstate roads.

More than 13 inches of rain fell in Nashville May 1-2, nearly doubling the two-day record and pushing the Cumberland River — which flows through downtown Nashville — more than 10 feet above its flood stage. It was expected to crest at more than 51 feet Monday evening. The rain’s impact was worsened because the region experienced a heavy rain just one week earlier.

Houses across the region near streams, creeks and rivers were the most in danger. Entire neighborhoods were under water, and some people had to be rescued by boat or helicopter. Other cities near the Cumberland River, such as Clarksville — about an hour northwest of Nashville — also were heavily impacted.

The flood, the worst in decades, did not discriminate. The famous Gaylord Opryland Hotel had at least 10 feet of water damage and might be closed for months. The flood shut down sections of Interstates 24, 40 and 65 for parts of the weekend, stranding hundreds of cars and making it impossible to get through the city at a normal pace. The river also overflowed in downtown Nashville, flooding businesses and creeping up to 2nd Avenue. Mayor Karl Dean urged people to stay off the roads.

Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville had at least 20 families whose houses received flood damage, some of them losing everything. Todd Young, associate pastor of education and activities at the church, helped a church family Sunday evening move their furniture upstairs, safely away from the floodwaters. He was heading out to help more families Monday afternoon and said he witnessed images in the flooded areas he won’t soon forget.

“I saw people walking out of their houses, in water, holding their bags over their heads like in Katrina,” Young told Baptist Press. “I saw a guy in a canoe just going back and forth to his house, getting stuff that he could.”

The staff will hold a strategy session Tuesday to see how best they can help the families, Young said. Families, he said, are overwhelmed by the damage.

“We’re praying for these folks. We’re just trying to get the word out about the need,” Young said. “People are calling asking what they can do. Today it’s just getting out there, saying, ‘OK, what can we do to physically help your needs?’ It’s a tremendous need right now. The people are ready to see things get fixed.”

Dozens of other churches across Nashville and the region are facing similar situations, assisting displaced members and residents. The Franklin home of LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer suffered “significant” damage to the lower level, although the main level was spared, he said on his Twitter page. He — like countless other families in the area whose homes were flooded — did not have flood insurance because his home was not in a floodplain. He wrote on his Twitter page before he even knew if his home had survived, “Thanking God for all my blessings.”

In Clarksville, Tenn., Red Cross shelters have been set up at Hilldale Baptist Church and Spring Creek Baptist Church.

Church buildings, too, suffered damage. Madison Creek Baptist Church in Goodlettsville had about four feet of water in the first floor of its building, and New Hope Baptist Church in Hendersonville saw about three feet of water in its one-floor structure. A crew will begin cleaning up Madison Creek Baptist Tuesday. Both churches are located just north of Nashville.

“We’re going to need a lot of help for these churches,” Michael Pennington, director of missions for the Bledsoe Baptist Association, told Baptist Press.

An hour southwest of Nashville, Mission Chapel Baptist Church in Williamsport, Tenn., sustained flood damage when about two feet of water made it into the building.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Donate to Tennessee flood disaster relief @ http://bit.ly/bKmPhC. Learn other ways you can help @ http://bit.ly/dCCACC or http://bit.ly/bSLL5b.

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  • Michael Foust