News Articles

DR DIGEST: Updates from Okla., Miss., Tenn., Ark. Baptist DR teams

DR volunteers help OKC homeowner whose home was ‘reduced to ashes’

By Bob Nigh/Oklahoma Baptist Messenger

With Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) volunteers busily preparing to minister to storm victims in Little Rock, Ark., on Monday morning (April 3) other state DR volunteers were working closer to home, assisting homeowners who lost homes and other property as a result of devastating wildfires that swept across Central Oklahoma the afternoon of March 31.

One such homeowner was Patte Wagner, 75, whose 10-acre property on the west side of N. Eastern Ave. in Oklahoma City was reduced to ashes. Wagner received almost immediate help after her neighbor, Sam Porter, retired Oklahoma and Southern Baptist Convention national DR director, called in “the troops” to help clean up her property.

The most evident remnant of Wagner’s three-story, three-bedroom brick home was a prominent fireplace jutting into the sky. The retired art teacher had lived in the home since her father built it in 1962 when she was just 14 years old. Also lost in the blaze were several other buildings, including a pole barn and another barn in which Wagner’s father housed the show horses he raised.

Porter’s property, which is immediately north of Wagner’s, was damaged only minimally by the fire, which was bolstered by strong winds and aided by high-fire-danger conditions.

“We had some embers land on our roof, but most of them thankfully went over, carried away by the wind gusts,” Porter said.

Oklahoma Baptist DR volunteers also supported wildfire first responders by providing meals on Friday, March 31, and Saturday, April 1.

Oklahoma Baptists’ DR director Jason Yarbrough said Oklahoma feeding unit volunteers have been asked to help prepare 1,500 meals a day in conjunction with establishing a command center at North Little Rock, Ark., Levy.

“We also are sending assessor and chaplain teams, as well as chainsaw teams, and we will provide shower and laundry units,” he commented. “We are planning to be there for three weeks, working with Arkansas Baptists and volunteers from two other state conventions which are sending teams to help those affected by tornadoes.”

For more information or to donate to Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief visit okdisasterhelp.org.

Ark. disaster relief soldiering on after latest wave of bad weather

By William Perkins/Mississippi Baptist Record

Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief (ABDR) volunteers – an important component thus far of the response effort to the deadly tornadoes that moved through the Mississippi Delta on March 24 – have returned to their home state after powerful tornadoes there on March 31 caused massive damage and a number of fatalities.

Bryant Wright (left), president of Send Relief, the joint compassion ministry of Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, visits with Baptist disaster relief workers stationed at First Church, Rolling Fork, on March 31. 

Baptist response operations in Mississippi will continue, said Hubert Yates, disaster relief director at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson. “ABDR requested that their teams be released to return to the Little Rock/Wynne areas as they were struck by a catastrophic tornado late Friday afternoon [March 31].

“Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief (MBDR) was able to arrange release, with MBDR providing site leadership, chainsaw, assessment, and chaplain volunteers. Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief provided a feeding team on Sunday [April 2],” Yates reported.

Bryant Wright, president of Send Relief, the joint compassion ministry of Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board in Richmond, Va., and North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga., visited Rolling Fork March 31 to offer encouragement to the Baptist volunteers on scene and to assess the needs to which Send Relief will be able to respond.

The former two-term president of the Southern Baptist Convention and retired pastor of Johnson’s Ferry Church in the Atlanta area toured the devastated city, offered encouragement in an address to as many of the Baptist volunteers as could be assembled at the noon hour, and shared lunch with them afterward.

Wright also met privately with Britt Williamson, pastor of First Church, Rolling Fork, which was damaged in the March 24 storm but is serving as headquarters for the Baptist response and relief effort.

To date, 103 chainsaw, tarping [securing tarpaulins over damaged roofs] and cleanup requests in the Rolling Fork/Silver City area have been received and 76 have been completed or closed, Yates said.

“At the current time, we anticipate that due to the large number of groups/volunteers that responded we may be able to conclude cleanup operations by Saturday [April 8],” he estimated.

“MBDR has scheduled an ‘operational pause’ for Easter weekend, April 8-9. We will continue to evaluate the need to continue feeding into the following week,” he added.

In Amory, another area of the state that sustained significant damage on March 24, MBDR is involved in cleanup, chainsaw, and tarping, Yates said. To date, 197 chainsaw, tarping and cleanup requests have been received and 169 have been completed or closed, he reported.

“A mass feeding effort for the Amory area was staged but did not go operational due to the available spontaneous feeding groups,” Yates said. An Easter weekend operational pause is scheduled for the Baptist response in the Amory area, and operations there will be reevaluated after that time, he said.

“As with the Rolling Fork site, large numbers of spontaneous groups/volunteers have responded and we may be able to complete operations by this Saturday [April 8].

In Montgomery and Carroll Counties, three “drive-in/drive out” chainsaw/cleanup teams coordinated by Brent Barker, pastor of Emmanuel Church, Grenada, were utilized. To date, 15 work requests for chainsaw/debris cleanup have been completed, primarily in the Somerville and Winona areas.

Monetary gifts may be made by check, or electronically by clicking here. Checks should be made payable to Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, with “Disaster Relief” designated on the memo line, and mailed to MBCB Business Office, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530.

Read the full story here.

Death toll from storms reaches 9 in McNairy County, Tenn.

By Tennessee Baptist and Reflector Staff

McNairy County received extensive damage and lives were lost in the storms that swept across Tennessee on March 31 and the early morning hours of April 1, said Russ Wilkins, director of missions for Shiloh Baptist Church, based in Adamsville, Tenn.

From left, Gavin Huggins, Lucas Martin, Devin Ellsworth, Clayton Brimm begin loading a truck for more deliveries of needed items to families impacted by the storm. Photo by Jim Veneman

Tennessee Emergency Management Association confirmed April 2 that nine people died in weather-related deaths in McNairy County.

Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief’s incident command post, manned by John and Kay Thomas of First Baptist Church, Sevierville, is set to begin operation on Tuesday (April 4), said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

“The damage and loss that our community suffered last night was catastrophic,” the city’s police department said in a statement on April 1. “We send our condolences to all of those who were impacted by this event, not just in our community, but across the entire region.”

First Baptist Church, Bethel Springs, has been serving meals to those in need and to first responders, according to the news report. Wilkins said Morris Chapel Baptist Church in Morris Chapel also was providing food, showers, a place to charge phones and a place to sleep if needed. First Baptist Church, Adamsville, provided a meal on April 1, he added.

Jacob Brimm, pastor of First, Bethel Springs, told the Baptist and Reflector that his members did not receive major damage. He noted, however, that some youth and children who attend Wednesday events at the church live in homes that were damaged.

The church lost power but is working to get it restored and generators have been acquired, Brimm said. The church began serving meals on April 1. “We are going to do what we can to love on our community, feed people and start meeting needs,” he said.

Ironically, the church had just begun a drive to collect items for a sister church in Mississippi to help people affected by a tornado earlier in the week. “Now, we are shifting to collect items for our community. … The folks in Mississippi are now praying for us,” he added.

“It has been devastating.”

Joey Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Selmer, agreed. He noted that in the almost 10 years he has served in Selmer there has been a lot of tragedy. Residents of the area, however, pull together. “This is a close-knit community.”

FBC’s main campus was not damaged but its north campus lost its gym and the worship center received damage. The north campus was unable to hold services April 2, but members attended at the main campus, Johnson said.

Wilkins talked with the mayor of McNairy County on April 1 who told him that 35 percent of the county was affected and that many people were still without power.

A “2023 Tornado Fund” has been established at TnDisasterRelief.org for those who wish to assist in recovery efforts.

Read the full story here.

Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief aids survivors in recovery efforts

By Arkansas Baptist News Staff

Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief (ABDR) currently has 13 units deployed throughout Arkansas, following the recent severe thunderstorms and tornadoes on Friday, March 31, that left devastation in their wake.

Currently, ABDR has command centers at Immanuel Baptist Church (Little Rock), Levy Baptist Church (North Little Rock), Second Baptist Church (Jacksonville), and Wynne Baptist Church. Out of these centers, they are assessing damage as well as providing chaplain services, meals and recovery services for homeowners.  

Ten of these ABDR units are in Wynne, two in Little Rock and one in Jacksonville as of April 3. Several other units are on standby. 

“We know people are hurting. We’re here to bring help, healing and hope to those in need. We are praying for them and asking for patience as we meet the needs as soon as possible,” ABDR Director Randy Garrett said.  

Disaster Relief teams from surrounding states are also aiding in relief and recovery efforts. This includes the Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief, Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief, and Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief.   

ABDR teams have been ministering to people impacted by disasters for more than 40 years. The “yellow shirts” have become a stabilizing force of hope and comfort to disaster survivors across the state and around the country. 

Currently, ABDR has 1,200 credentialed volunteers ready to serve in the aftermath of disasters.

If you need assistance, contact the ABDR call center at 800-806-6940. Volunteers will be available 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to take requests. 

If you would like to donate, visit abscdisasterrelief.org

Please continue to pray for survivors as they navigate the days ahead and all Disaster Relief volunteers ministering on the scene. 

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