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DR DIGEST: Churches serving food, helping neighbors; DR crews at work after Southeast tornadoes

‘God providing’ in Selma and other hard-hit places

By Grace Thornton/The Alabama Baptist

HAYNEVILLE, Ala. (BP) – Davey Lyon spent a lot of time over the weekend flipping burgers. He and around 20 volunteers served food from his church’s pull-behind grill to the people of Selma in the aftermath of a tornado that hit their city Jan. 12.

“It’s pretty bad in Selma. Think of Tuscaloosa, just on a smaller scale,” said Lyon, pastor of Imago Dei Church at the 45 in nearby Lowndes County, referring to the tornado that tore through the middle of Tuscaloosa in 2011. “In Selma, it started on the west end and came all the way through town.”

Huge trees are down, houses are destroyed and power is out for many in the city.

Lyon said looking at the damage, “it’s only by God’s grace that there aren’t hundreds of casualties.”

Making good progress

Volunteers with Imago Dei Church at the 45 grill hundreds of burgers for the people of Selma, along with disaster relief volunteers and Alabama Power employees. Photo courtesy of Davey Lyon

And the people of Selma know that, he said. His wife, Amber, said as she talked to people in the community, they’re just grateful to be alive and thankful for the people who are coming in to help them put their lives back together.

That includes Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief teams who are working hard to clear neighborhoods and fill job requests. Mark Wakefield, state disaster relief strategist, said volunteers have gotten a lot of traction in their first couple of days and are making good progress.

“Selma is an old town with big trees, and that’s slowing them down a little,” he said. “But they’re getting it done.”

Teams at work across Alabama

Wakefield said Elkdale Baptist Church is a “phenomenal host” for teams as a command center. Teams from Walker, St. Clair, Pickens, Colbert Lauderdale, Shelby and North Jefferson Baptist associations as well as others have been working and will continue to work there this week.

He said teams are also working in the hard-hit areas of Autauga, Elmore, Coosa and Tallapoosa counties.

Lyon and other volunteers have been helping to feed the teams in Selma, along with Alabama Power employees and Selma residents who need a hot meal. He said God recently provided the church with the pull-behind grill and other equipment they’ve been able to use this week.

‘God has just provided’

And he’s seen God meet their needs too as they’ve grilled. The night the tornado hit, he bought $700 worth of food, and he had one person bring him $200 and another person $500 without him asking or disclosing the total amount to either of them.

“We made 180 boxes and got those out that first day (Jan. 13),” Lyon said.

After giving out that food, he went back to Sam’s to buy food for the next day and doubled the amount — around $1,300 of food.

“Then I got a text from a guy we were able to give some food to that day, and he said his company wanted to cover it,” Lyon said. “God has just provided.”

He said they were able to prepare 400 meal boxes Saturday (Jan. 14), and about $8,000 worth of donations have come in since then from people who have seen the posts on social media and want to help.

Boones Chapel in it for the long haul

By Grace Thornton/The Alabama Baptist

PRATVILLE, Ala. (BP) – Matt Hall said he doesn’t know how long his church is going to keep going with tornado relief ministry, but best he can tell, it will be part of their lives for a long time in one form or another.

“We want to be the church that, yes, meets immediate needs, but I also want to be the church who months down the road is still ministering to these people as much as when the storm happened,” said Hall, pastor of Boones Chapel Baptist Church in Prattville.

‘Hands and feet’

“I’ve gotten to meet or speak to a family member of everyone who lost their lives and pray with them,” Hall said. “I’m so humbled to get to be the hands and feet of Jesus on the ground and meet these guys where they are.”

Volunteers from his church and from Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief teams have gone out in the community removing trees from homes, helping with cleanup and talking and praying with those who have been impacted by the storms.

And Boones Chapel Baptist members have been preparing hundreds of meals a day in the church kitchen since the tornado hit, starting with 300 meals Jan. 13 and growing to around 900 meals Jan. 15, Hall said. “We’ve taken addresses where people are who don’t have power and houses are gone or damaged, and teams have delivered all of these meals.”

The church has also become a collection site for water, clothing, tarps, totes and other dry goods. The effort was moved there after it was started by the Marbury Youth League, and people from the community have been able to come in and “shop” in the church gym.

No stranger to storms

“It’s been neat to see it all come together, as we’ve been figuring it out as we go,” he said. “The community has come and been a part of what we’re doing here, donating things and organizing and folding stuff.”

Facing a storm isn’t new for the community or for the church. In April 2011, a tornado tore through the area, damaging the church and killing three church members. Boones Chapel Baptist knows the pain their neighbors are feeling — they’ve walked this road before.

And Hall wants the church to continue to walk alongside the people of their area for the long haul.

“We want to create a community that loves our community, that loves God and loves people, that’s it,” Hall said.

Rain won’t deter Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from helping tornado victims

By Roger Alford/The Christian Index

GRIFFIN, Ga. – A soggy mid-week forecast won’t deter Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief chainsaw crews who are helping tornado victims remove trees from their homes and property.

The National Weather Service forecast a 90 percent chance of rain on Tuesday (Jan. 17) and a 70 percent chance on Thursday.

“It’s just rain, nothing severe,” said Jeff Carter, a crew leader who was among the first to arrive in the Griffin area where an EF-2 tornado did widespread damage. “It’ll just be another day for our folks.”

Survey teams from the National Weather Service have confirmed at least five tornadoes touched down in Georgia last week.

Disaster Relief crews, who do their work free of charge as a ministry to tornado victims, are seeing lots of homes damaged by huge trees toppled by the wind.

“Most were really old oak trees that just crushed homes when they fell,” Carter said.

Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have helped with storm cleanup across the country through the years. Carter said the people they help are always amazed by the volunteers work ethic, empathy and professionalism.

“They can’t believe that we work for free,” he said. “They are just amazed by that.”

The Disaster Relief volunteers began arriving within hours of the tornado outbreak blamed for at least two deaths in Georgia.

Dwain Carter, director of Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief, said some communities were devastated.

“It’s a major tornado zone,” he said.

Along with the chainsaw crews, Carter has deployed chaplains, damage assessors and volunteers to man a feeding station, showers and a mobile laundromat. They’re staging at Union Baptist Church in Griffin for a mobilization that could last up to a month.

Gov. Brian Kemp said the storm system caused damage across the state. Some of the worst damage, he said, was along the Alabama state line.

EF-1 tornadoes were confirmed in Cobb, Spaulding, Warren and McDuffie counties.

EF-2s were reported in Meriwether, Pike, Troup, and Spaulding counties.

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