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DR DIGEST: Churches, DR teams helping in wake of winter storms

Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers tarp a roof at FBC Cottonwood after a tornado damaged the building Jan. 9. Photo courtesy of John Thomas

Louisiana Baptist DR teams activated to serve homeless in Lake Charles

By Baptist Message staff

Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief feeding and laundry teams have been activated for ministry to the homeless in Lake Charles.

The team of 12 members from Carey Baptist Association and Rolling Hills Ministries will cook meals (using equipment provided by Philadelphia Baptist Church, Deville) Jan. 15-17, for an expected 125 homeless individuals who will be housed at Watersedge Church (non-denominational), Lake Charles.

Reggy Saxon, DR coordinator for Zone 5 that encompasses southwest Louisiana, asked for prayers for those individuals the teams will minister to over the next few days.

“God reminds us that He cares even for the least of these,” Saxon said. “These are folks without a home. Shame on us if we ignore them, especially in a time of need. This is an excellent time to share the Lord in tough conditions.”

Lake Charles is among communities throughout the state and nation impacted by frigid temperatures and wintry precipitation from Winter Storm Heather.

Across the state, roadways, businesses including all state offices and schools were closed as Heather blanketed parts of the state with snow, freezing rain and sleet.

According to AccuWeather, the storm has impacted more than 200 million across the central and eastern U.S., has left 0.5 to 1 inch of snow in Dallas, 3-6 inches of snow from Little Rock to Nashville and even more in other parts of the country that have experienced lake-effect snow that can produce 2-3 inches or more of snow per hour. The Associated Press reported that Lake Erie-fed snow bands produced, in New York, 41 inches of snow in Hamburg and Angola and three feet in West Seneca, Blasdell and South Buffalo.

One person died in a motor vehicle accident on an icy road in east Texas on Monday. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Barbra Jackson of Shelbyville, Texas, was driving a 2020 Jeep SUV on FM 2694 in Shelby County at an unsafe speed when the vehicle slid across the eastbound lane off the road and crashed into two trees.

The storm has resulted in more than 150,000 power outages, more than 2,100 flight cancellations nationwide and countless vehicle pileups.

Donations that provide financial assistance for the effort can be made on the LBDR website.

Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief teams help after FBC Cottonwood hit by Jan. 9 tornado

By Grace Thornton/The Alabama Baptist

As Jimmy Bolin walked up to his church to survey the tornado damage Jan. 9, he said one thing stood out, and it wasn’t that the damage was “bad, really bad.”

“On our sign for New Year’s, I’d put, ‘Praise the Lord in 2024,’” said Bolin, who serves as pastor of First Baptist Church Cottonwood. “That just stuck in my heart as I walked up to the church — what a test this is to praise the Lord.”

The church was hit by an EF-2 tornado that also killed an 81-year-old woman in her mobile home and destroyed several of the town’s government buildings.

‘Overwhelmed’ by Alabama Baptists’ help

The storm tore off FBC Cottonwood’s steeple, ripped off its awnings, took out two air-conditioning units, damaged the roofs and dropped a tree through the church’s fellowship hall, Bolin said.

“We were very fortunate — our adjuster came out yesterday, and they will start the renovations on Monday (Jan. 15),” he said. “We got what we could cleaned up and got the sanctuary ready for Sunday.”

Bolin said he was overwhelmed with the way Alabama Baptists responded, starting with his local Southeast Alabama Baptist Association and other associations nearby.

“They were down there within an hour cutting out the tree that had fallen on the church, helping pick up the stuff that was in the yard and helping people in the community,” he said. “It’s heart-touching to see people come together in your time of need.”

Known for their help

John Thomas — SABA mission strategist who also served as the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief white hat leader in Cottonwood — was the first to arrive with blue hat Chuck Locke and a team from Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Dothan. In the hours and days that followed, they were joined by Disaster Relief teams from JudsonGenevaCoffee and Dale Baptist associations.

ABDR crews were allowed to enter the town right away despite a lockdown order put in place by Houston County, Thomas said, noting that that speaks well of ABDR teams, their training and the way they’re known for their work in the state.

By Thursday, teams had “pretty well finished it up,” Thomas said. They went home ahead of the possible storms Jan. 12 and planned to return Jan. 14 to assess any remaining trees and debris in the area and see if they needed to return.

‘We’re going to make it’

Representatives from the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions also brought a check to the church to provide extra resources during their time of recovery.

Bolin said the outpouring of love and help from Alabama Baptists has been amazing.

“The training that the Southern Baptist associations have used to prepare these people for this, it’s just a blessing, and you don’t get to see it until it happens,” he said. “When it happens, it’s just overwhelming.”

Bolin said he wanted to “let everybody know that we’re going to make it — the Lord is our helper.”

Florida panhandle churches unite to help after winter storm

By Brooke Mannion/Florida Baptist Convention

As a winter storm wreaked havoc throughout the Florida Panhandle in the early morning hours of Jan. 9, families braced themselves when tornadoes blew through neighborhoods, creating widespread destruction, damaging roofs, putting cars under trees and leaving some without homes.

The National Weather Service said one tornado in Panama City was the first EF3 tornado to hit Bay County in more than 50 years.

Florida Division of Emergency Management Executive Director Kevin Guthrie reported “potentially catastrophic damage” in Bay County.

Eastside Baptist Church in Marianna, suffering minimal damage as one tornado passed less than half a mile away, has several families within the church who live in hard-hit Spring Chase. Nearly every home in the neighborhood sustained damage, with many needing to be completely rebuilt in the months to come.

Vince Smith, pastor, First Baptist Church in Marianna, and Danny Mann, pastor, Trinity Baptist Church in Marianna, were both quick to mobilize their church members to help in the community. Chipola Baptist Association promptly set up a food giveaway and, even as temperatures are expected to dip below freezing in the coming days, is utilizing its office as an American Red Cross shelter for displaced community residents,

In the storm’s aftermath, deacons at 5 Bridges Church in Panama City quickly began to call and check on church members, from Santa Rosa Beach to Lynn Haven. “We were able to connect and reach our local community, serving families in need through our food pantry,” said Ethan Jago, pastor, 5 Bridges Church. “We are so grateful that we serve a God who is sovereign over every situation. No matter the circumstances, we can still give Him praise in both the good and bad.”

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