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DR DIGEST: Tennessee, North Carolina recover from tornadoes

Disaster response volunteers with N.C. Baptists on Mission clean debris from a homeowner’s yard in Garner, where a tornado touched down on Sunday, Dec. 10. Photo by Chad Austin

Tennessee recovery begins in earnest

By David Dawson/Baptist & Reflector

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP) – Recovery efforts have begun in earnest across the state, and Tennessee Baptists are leading the charge.  

Fueled by the combined efforts of local churches and Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams, the clean-up and recuperation process is underway for the hundreds of Tennesseans who were left reeling after a series of tornadoes swept through West and Middle Tennessee on Dec. 9. The affected counties included Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Gibson, Montgomery, Robertson, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Weakley and Wilson.

News outlets reported six deaths and dozens of injuries from the storms, and an estimated 80,000-90,000 people were left without power.

Here’s an update on a few relief projects taking place in Middle Tennessee: 

Long Hollow Church

Long Hollow Church opened several spaces in the church’s student building Dec. 11 where families could gather to rest and recover. The spaces feature outlets for charging devices and free WiFi. The spaces are available daily from 10 a.m.-4p.m.

First Baptist Church Goodlettsville

First Baptist Church, Goodlettsville, will be hosting a team from Alabama Disaster Relief for the next seven to 10 days. The Alabama team will be assisting with cleanup and recovery efforts in Madison and Hendersonville.

FBC pastor Lyle Larson and his staff contacted Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief specialist Wes Jones over the weekend to offer the church’s facility for whatever purpose was most needed. Lovett said he was informed that the teams from Alabama needed a place to stay, and he said FBC welcomed the opportunity to host the volunteers. 

FBC student pastor Noah Leighton is helping coordinate the accommodations. 

“We are excited to be partnering with Alabama DR, and all of the awesome people in yellow,” Leighton said. “It is going to be a very busy week. Yet, we are looking at this opportunity as something God has entrusted us with. So, whatever we can do to be a part of showing our community the love of Jesus, we are all in!”

FBC posted a video on Monday morning in which Larson outlined some details for FBC members about the incoming team. 

“They will be working during the day — cleaning up debris and sharing the Gospel — and we (at FBC Goodlettsville) get to be a part of that by housing the volunteers,” Larson said. “My prayer for us as a church is that we will respond well and do everything we can to be a great host for them in these days.”

First Baptist Church Hendersonville

Although First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, was in the path of the storm, the church’s facilities sustained only minimal damage. Several vehicles in the parking lot were damaged from fallen trees and flying debris.

FBC senior associate pastor Bruce Raley told the Baptist and Reflector that the church had about 800 people on its campus — most of whom were preparing for Saturday night’s Christmas presentation — when the tornado hit.

As the storm approached, everyone was asked to get between the pews or underneath pews in the sanctuary, Raley said in an email to the B&R.

“Just as we were doing that, the tornado (touched down) literally on our church property,” said Raley.

Over the next few moments, “there was probably as much praying during (the following) 10-minute span as there has even been,” said senior pastor Bruce Chesser in a video that he and Raley put online on Sunday morning.

Raley told the Baptist and Reflector that if the storm had been an hour later, there would have been roughly 2,500 more people on campus for the church’s annual Christmas presentation, “Christmas in the Ville.”

“The tornado basically came down Main Street in Hendersonville,” Chesser said, noting that the roof at the nearby Holiday Inn was essentially destroyed by the storm, and the roof of the YMCA collapsed, too. 

“We definitely are hurting for our neighbors,” Raley said.

N.C. Baptists serve, minister to residents impacted by Garner tornado

By Chad Austin/Biblical Recorder

GARNER, N.C. – Disaster response volunteers with N.C. Baptists on Mission joined the storm cleanup efforts in Garner after a tornado touched down in the town located on the outskirts of Raleigh on Sunday (Dec. 10).

On Monday and Tuesday, N.C. Baptists on Mission volunteers were on hand assessing damage and serving homeowners in neighborhoods impacted by the tornado, which snapped and uprooted trees and caused property damage. No injuries or fatalities were reported.

Much of the damage was localized to neighborhoods along Timber Drive, one of Garner’s main thoroughfares.

A team of nine Baptists on Mission volunteers were out early Tuesday removing fallen trees and remaining debris from residents’ yards. At one location, volunteers removed the remnants of two large trees that had fallen into the front yard of homeowner Susan Rodriguez and were still blocking her driveway and garage. 

“It’s very sweet that they’re doing this because it saves me an expense that I really can’t afford at this point,” said Rodriguez, adding that she is also still grieving the loss of her husband who died about three weeks ago.

Volunteer Mike Klapp, who also serves as executive pastor at The River Community Church in Fayetteville, had a chance to talk with Rodriguez and pray with her after the team concluded the work at her residence.

“We told her ‘Jesus loves us, and Jesus loves you,’ and that’s why we’re out here doing what we are doing,” Klapp said.

At another location, volunteers removed a large tree that had fallen and stretched across the yards of three adjacent properties.

Baptists on Mission volunteers were continuing to assess damage on Tuesday, and ministry officials said they would be serving residents impacted by the storm as long as they are needed.

“We are thankful that we have volunteers who are willing and able to serve on such short notice, especially with this storm that hit Garner,” said Tom Beam, Baptists on Mission’s disaster response coordinator.

The tornado that touched down in Garner on Sunday was spawned by a series of storms that moved across the southeastern United States, causing unstable atmospheric conditions.

Some trees fell on homes, causing extensive damage. The Town of Garner reported 21 homes were damaged during the storm. Town inspectors found four homes to be uninhabitable and two others partially uninhabitable due to the damage. Four other homes sustained major damage, and 11 others suffered minor damage, according to the town.

The National Weather Service classified the twister as an EF1 tornado, which carries wind speeds of up to 110 mph. Weather service officials said the tornado touched down at approximately 12:28 p.m., spent four minutes on the ground and traveled about 1.5 miles in a mostly straight, northeasterly path.

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