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DISASTER RELIEF DIGEST: Arizona volunteers help after Colorado wildfires; Baptists embrace Tennessee town

Working in the rubble of a house burned in the Marshall Fire in Colorado, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers Sue Cook (right) and Norma Turner look for items they can salvage for the homeowners.

Arizona DR brings hope after Colorado wildfire

By Jessica Parrow/Portraits

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (BP) – When all seemed lost in the ashes of a home burned in a wildfire, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers brought hope. Seven Arizona volunteers served in Colorado, sifting through the ashes from the Marshall Fire that sparked in late December.

The fire was the most destructive in Colorado’s history in terms of property loss and damage, according to the Colorado Sun. A total of 1,084 homes – mainly in Louisville and Superior — were destroyed, and another 149 homes were damaged.

The fire, which started due to dry conditions mixed with severe wind, spread so rapidly that residents had to evacuate without taking much more than the clothing on their backs.

The remains of a jewelry box found by Sue Cook brought tears to the homeowner’s eyes.

A disaster assistance center was set up at Reclamation Church in Boulder. More than 400 residents asked for help sifting through the remains of their homes, hoping to recover something of their possessions.

Along with other organizations, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from several states have joined with Colorado Baptist Disaster Relief to work in Louisville and Superior to help these homeowners.

Arizona Disaster Relief volunteer Sue Cook told about working an “ash-out” job in Louisville on Jan. 20.

“Right away, I saw a rectangular metal object sitting on top of the ashes in the basement,” she said. “At first, I thought it might be part of the home’s structure, but it was a metal box.”

After carefully opening the box, Cook realized she was holding the remains of a jewelry box. Upon arrival at the site, the homeowner teared up and was amazed and overcome at the find, as it was sentimental to her, Cook said.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief exists to provide help, hope and healing to those affected by natural disasters. The Arizona team helped provide a ray of hope that not all was lost in the fire, allowing healing to begin with the recovery of memories and treasure.

The ultimate goal of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams around the nation is to show that Christ’s love is what brings lasting help, hope and healing.

Baptists play big role in Tennessee town’s tornado recovery

By Lonnie Wilkey/Baptist and Reflector

DRESDEN, Tenn. (BP) – Friday, Dec. 10, is a day that most residents of Dresden and Weakley County are not likely to forget. A tornado, one of about 14 that occurred in the mid-South that night, swept through the county causing massive damage and destruction.

The Dresden Fire Department and City Hall were among the casualties of the Dec. 10 tornado. Photo by Lonnie Wilkey

Phil Mitchell, director of missions for Weakley County Baptist Association, went to his office early on Saturday morning not knowing what to expect. The tornado was not predicted to hit Dresden, he recalled, but it veered and went through the city. Though buildings were destroyed within view of the association’s office, the association’s facilities were spared, he said.

Later that morning, the association had disaster relief and other volunteers working all day Saturday and Sunday to clear roads so people could get to those who had lost their homes and businesses, Mitchell said, adding: “We have been working ever since.”

Stories of people offering help have been overwhelming, Mitchell said. He told of a pastor from Missouri who drove six hours with an RV loaded with supplies. He gave the RV to the association along with a check for $2,500 that his church had collected. Later, that pastor’s son and some friends drove the six hours to help with cleanup efforts and slept in their truck.

“We have seen the good side of people,” Mitchell said.

Tommy and Karen Wilson, members of First Baptist Church, Dresden, have been long-time Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief trained volunteers. At the time of the tornado, they were working alongside John and Kaye Thomas in Waverly, Tenn., to learn how to operate and run an incident command post, which involves coordinating volunteer teams and assessing and assigning jobs.

“It shows God’s provision that we were training with John and Kaye,” Karen Wilson said. “God knew what was going to happen and that we needed to know how to help people get through it. He put us in the right place at the right time.”

Read the full story here.

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