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DR DIGEST: Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas DR updates

Florida Baptist Disaster Relief teams aid tornado victims In Tallahassee

By David Moore/Florida Baptist Convention

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP) – Just hours after three tornadoes touched down in Tallahassee on Friday, May 10, wreaking havoc, toppling trees, disrupting power and claiming at least one life in what’s being considered the city’s worst tornado outbreak, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers arrived in the area, talking to pastors and local residents, assessing damage and making an action plan for recovery efforts.

David Coggins, director for Florida Baptist Disaster Relief, arrived Friday in Tallahassee and began making plans to set up headquarters at Immanuel Baptist Church. He met with Pastor Brian Robertson and Associate Pastor Andy Dawson, who took him on a tour of parts of the city that had been impacted. Meanwhile other teams assisted with efforts in Woodville, just south of Tallahassee, as well as in Crestview, Live Oak and Jacksonville.

Winds at 100 mph had toppled trees and powerlines throughout the city, leaving thousands without power. The number of broken utility poles is expected to exceed 500, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. The storm system that spurred these tornadoes ripped through other areas of Florida, resulting in a state of emergency being declared in 12 counties.

“Friday was Day 1 for us,” Coggins said. “We started calling people and getting them ready. Some got here Friday afternoon, and we started formulating a little game plan. We sent out chainsaw teams and assessors over the weekend.”

Monday started as the first fully operational day for the teams with about 100 volunteers working in the area, but then more severe weather arrived in the afternoon, bringing efforts to a halt.

‘Out of nowhere’

For Robertson, the tornado was unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. After he got the tornado warning on his cellphone that morning, he stepped outside for a moment and saw nothing. No rain, no wind. It did not look very concerning.

He closed the garage door and headed back into the house toward his bedroom. That’s when he heard a big crash, and he and his family – wife Anne and their kids Emilie, 17, and Braden, 12, and two dogs – quickly took shelter in a hall closet.

They were only in there about 10 minutes, but they heard all the noises. “This storm came out of nowhere. It sounded like a train coming through,” he said. “We heard trees moving. We heard wind whipping. We also heard rain hitting the windows with force.”

Afterward he headed outside where he saw trees had fallen all over the 4.5-acre property, including on two of his cars and a large storage building. “I was blown away by all the devastation that had occurred in such a short time,” he said. “There were trees down everywhere, completely covering the road.”

By Monday, after sharing its number with Tallahassee’s Emergency Operations Center, the Disaster Relief team had already started receiving calls from residents in need.

Coggins said the chainsaw and roof repair teams consist of about five to six people who go into neighborhoods to assist homeowners with cutting and moving fallen trees and covering roofs with tarps. Each of these teams includes a chaplain, a person dedicated to meeting with storm victims, praying with them and counseling them through a situation that can be very traumatic.

“They talk and listen to homeowners and pray with them and share the gospel with them if they have the opportunity,” Coggins said. “They are trying to help them get back and recover from this traumatic event.”

Read the full story here.

Storms keep Missouri Disaster Relief active

By Tharran Gaines/The Pathway

JOPLIN, Mo. (BP) – The sound of storm warning sirens is surely frightening for anyone who lived in the Joplin area in 2011, when an EF5 tornado destroyed more than a fourth of the city and killed 185 people. Fortunately, the tornado that hit the area on May 6 wasn’t nearly as bad as the 2011 EF5. Not only were there no deaths or injuries, but no houses were destroyed. Still, the storms left hundreds of downed trees in their path as they moved across parts of Joplin and neighboring Carthage.

Consequently, Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief (MODR) was once again in Joplin to provide help, hope and healing to those who needed assistance in getting trees off their house, driveway and/or yard. According to Jerry Palmer, who is serving as the Incident Commander (white hat) for the Joplin operation, MODR had assessors and a chainsaw team on the ground within two days of the tornado with operations based out of Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin.

“The National Weather Service listed this storm as just an EF1 tornado,” he says. “But it still did a lot of damage to trees and a few houses.”

Ryan Huntley, fire chief for Carthage, said the damage in his city was due to both high winds and a small tornado. “We were told by the National Weather Service that the damage within the city was caused by straight-line winds up to 85 miles per hour,” he said. “However, the damage sustained west and southwest of town was attributed to a small tornado that caused damage in a path that was about 100 yards wide and two miles long, leaving hundreds of downed trees in its path.”

Unfortunately, Joplin and Carthage aren’t the only areas that have been affected by spring storms … stretching chainsaw teams to the limit. A team led by Tom Malott, a MODR volunteer from Doniphan, Missouri, was just finishing up in Waynesville and St. Robert, Missouri, when they were transferred to Joplin for more urgent needs. It was on the night of April 1 and early morning of April 2nd that a storm tore through that area leaving hundreds of trees down on yards, roads and driveways and damage on more than 200 homes.

“The teams from Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief were phenomenal,” said Hector Silva, Emergency Management Director for Pulaski County. “They came in at a time when I didn’t think I was going to have anybody to help us. They cut down a lot of trees and cleared a lot of debris for area homeowners,” he added. “And I know they tarped a few houses that had roof damage. So, the Missouri Baptists were a real lifesaver to our community.”

Read the full story here.

Okla. tornado relief continues, prayer support needed

By Pathway Staff

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) – When disaster strikes, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) will be there “to bring help, hope and healing to our neighbors and friends,” according to Jason Yarbrough, Oklahoma Baptist DR state director.

The late spring tornadoes that devastated areas of the state have created significant needs and a large number of requests for DR assistance.

DR ministry includes command center work, damage assessors, chaplains, meal preparation and feeding, as well as chainsaw and debris removal. In the aftermath of the tornadoes, Oklahoma Baptist DR team members have been busy meeting needs and sharing the love of Jesus.

The late April tornadoes led to various parts of Oklahoma being in need of assistance. In Sulphur and Ardmore, volunteers have already helped 70 work requests. In Morris, DR volunteers completed 90 work requests. On average, there have been approximately 170 DR volunteers working each day for these affected areas. To date, there have been three professions of faith.

The May tornadoes led to a response in Barnsdall and Bartlesville, where approximately 100 are volunteers serving each day, with operation based out of the Bartlesville, First Family Life Center and the Washington-Osage Disaster Relief Barn on the church property.

To date, Oklahoma Baptist DR has received 150 plus requests for assistance. The DR mass feeding team prepared approx. 4,000 meals for the Barnsdall and Bartlesville communities last week. They will continue this week to prepare 400 meals a day for the Barnsdall community. To date, there has been one profession of faith in these communities, directly connected to Oklahoma Baptist DR.

Yarbrough shared the following story of ministry impact. “Our feeding volunteers do not often have much of an opportunity to interact with the public as their work is behind the scenes preparing the food that is served by other agencies,” he said. “This current response in Bartlesville/Barnsdall allowed us the opportunity to set up one of our Quick Response Units in a parking lot in an area of Bartlesville impacted by the storms. Several of our feeding volunteers were able to interact with homeowners as they came to our QRU to receive a free meal. The smiles on their faces and the reports of the conversations they were able to have with residents made my heart happy that we were asked and were able to provide this service to the community. For four days our feeding volunteers made 40-60 ministry contacts each day, had many gospel conversations and were able to see one person pray to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord!!!

Read the full story here.

Texans on Mission volunteers keep hope afloat

By Taryn Johnson/Texans on Mission

RISING STAR, Texas (BP) – Homes were under water, but the hands of Texans on Mission volunteers kept hope afloat in Rising Star, a small town north of Brownwood.

Resident David Grissom experienced the heaviness of the effects of a May 3 flood as water began to fill his home. Grissom said he was in shock at the amount of water surrounding the house.

“We experienced about knee-deep water on the front porch and 8 inches of water in the house,” he said. “This has never happened before, and I’ve been here 20 years.”

A record 9 inches of rain impacted 90 percent of Rising Star’s downtown, flooding businesses, causing road damage and making parts of the town impassable.

Grissom’s wife Alexis recounted the events from that night and expressed the same shock.

“The kids’ room got the worst of it,” she said. “Water was pouring in from the corners. It was tearing all of it up.”

As the water engulfed their home, David Grissom fought to get his family to safety and preserve what he could of their belongings.

“I thought I’d have to kick the window out to get out. I couldn’t get the front door to open,” he said. “I made about five or six trips into the house getting stuff out. Last trip, I didn’t think I was going to make it back out.”

The flood ruined most of their possessions. They salvaged some furniture but had to throw away much of their clothing, furniture and family keepsakes.

Texans on Mission minister to ‘stressed’ couple

The couple used one word to describe the feeling of the aftermath as they stood in the middle of their bedroom: “Stressed.”

Texans on Mission volunteers swiftly responded to the community, offering disaster relief the day after the flood.

Volunteers from Greenwood Baptist Church in Weatherford, and Wylie Baptist and Beltway Park Baptist churches in Abilene worked to replace damaged areas of the home, while the Grissoms removed items lost to the flood.

While they felt the grief of the situation, uncovering items lost one by one, Alexis Grissom said efforts from volunteers did not go unnoticed.

“We really appreciate it. I know it doesn’t seem like it, because I’m stressed out, but we really do appreciate it very much,” she said.

Read the full story here.

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