NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The flood relief work of one Southern Baptist church in Nashville was featured May 6 by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who applauded the state’s response and said he’s “never seen” such an outpouring of volunteers following a natural disaster.
Cooper broadcast live Thursday night from the Nashville community of Bellevue, which was hit hard by the May 1-2 disaster that dropped more than 13 inches of rain over 48 hours, nearly doubling the two-day record and flooding creeks and rivers. Davidson County, where Nashville resides, and 26 other counties in West and Middle Tennessee have been declared major disaster areas by the federal government. Thousands of homes were flooded and sustained major damage.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said Friday the estimated cost of the flood damage has reached $1.5 billion in Nashville alone and will climb even higher.
“It’s an incredible place,” Cooper said earlier in the night on CNN in previewing his show. “I’ve never seen so many volunteers so quickly after a disaster, descending and helping out neighbors — thousands of members of church groups and individuals who just come out. You see people in front of homes and you say, ‘Is this your home?’ They’re like, ‘No, I’m just here, I just came down here to help.’ It’s an incredible sight to see. It’s a real testament to the spirit and strength of Nashville.”
Cooper walked around the Bellevue community with country music singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and bumped into a team from Judson Baptist Church that was helping clean out one flooded home, pulling out spoiled insulation and sheet rock. The flood in the area reached four feet in the homes, Jack Oliver, a minister at Judson Baptist, said.
“It’s amazing,” Cooper said, “because we were in New Orleans [following Hurricane Katrina], and it took months in some cases to get to this point. To see this, just a couple of days after — it’s a sign of how organized things are here, largely thanks to volunteers.”
Said Oliver, “It’s just a sense of community and the small town feel of it, that ‘Hey, we’ve got to help our neighbors.'”
Crews from Judson Baptist have been helping clean out flooded homes every day since Monday, the day after the rain stopped.
Oliver told Baptist Press, “We’re doing what Jesus would do — meeting the physical needs of the people. He told us to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what we’re trying to do…. If Jesus were here Himself he would be walking up and down these streets, ministering to people’s needs and trying to console them.”
McGraw, who along with his wife, Hill, calls Nashville home, told Cooper that despite the outpouring of support seen in Bellevue, help is going to be needed in the area “for a long time.”
“It’s not going to go away anytime soon for these families.”
Oliver told BP that assisting flood victims is going to be a three-stage process: 1) helping with initial disaster relief, such as gutting out homes, 2) helping people financially, and, 3) helping people during reconstruction. Many people, he said, will need a place to stay, if not now then during reconstruction.
“Believers have to be financially sensitive to what the Lord tells them to do and support folks financially,” Oliver told BP. “A lot of folks don’t have flood insurance, and lot of them aren’t going to be able to get a $20,000 or $50,000 loan. The Christian community needs to respond and say, ‘God, do you want us to forgo our vacation?'”
He added, “It’s an opportunity for believers to live out Philippians 2 — others are more important than ourselves.”
Cooper said Tennessee’s nickname, the “Volunteer State,” is deserved. “And, today and for the last several days, they have shown the world why they deserve that name,” he said on his program.
A lot of people in the area, Cooper said, feel the national media “hasn’t paid enough attention” to the Nashville area’s plight. He said he agrees with them and he said he should have broadcast from Nashville earlier in the week.
“They’re certainly justified in feeling that way,” he said.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” also did a segment on the Nashville flood Friday, which originated from the parking lot of Two Rivers Baptist Church and spotlighted the damage to the Grand Ole Opry, which is located across the street from the church. Anchor Robin Roberts said some are calling the flood “Nashville’s Katrina.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Donate to Tennessee flood disaster relief at www.TnBaptist.org, or by sending a check payable to the Tennessee Baptist Convention, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, TN 37024. Be sure to include the designation “TN Floods 2010” on the check. Learn ways you can help in the Nashville area at www.nashvillebaptistassociation.org. Learn ways you can help in the Clarksville area at www.cumberlandba.org (the Cumberland Baptist Association will be holding disaster relieve training May 9, 11 and 12. More information at www.cumberlandba.org). The latter two websites also have flood relief request forms for those whose homes have been flooded.