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Storms destroy church, rattle seminary

UPDATED 3:40 p.m. Friday, May 2

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–South Side Baptist Church of Bee Branch near Damascus, Ark., was destroyed early May 2 by a possible tornado, according to an eyewitness report.

In Missouri, storms in the Kansas City area left Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary without power and telephone service for a time.

At South Side Baptist Church, the sanctuary “looks totally demolished … and the parsonage has been damaged,” said J.D. Stake, a member of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) leadership and worship team who was traveling through the area during the storm and took shelter in the Damascus post office. “Several homes also were hit and power lines are down.”

According to KTHV in Little Rock, authorities have confirmed that seven people have been killed in severe weather across Arkansas. Two people were killed as a possible tornado hit the Birdtown area in Conway County and three other people were killed in Damascus. Early this morning in Siloam Springs, a 15-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell through her bedroom where she was sleeping. At least 13 people were injured, according to state officials

At press time, thousands of Arkansans are without power.

ABSC disaster relief volunteers are currently en route to the devastated areas to assess damages and needs, said Robby Tingle, leader of the ABSC missions ministries team.

In Kansas City, although much of the stormn damage occurred in the northern part of the metro area where Midwestern Seminary is located, the campus did not experience any major damage.

“We are very thankful that there are no injuries or loss of life,” MBTS President R. Philip Roberts said. “The damage on our property was minimal as well. For this, we truly thank the Lord.”

The first wave of storms and hail hit the Kansas City area around 5 p.m. Thursday. Then hurricane-force winds up to 85 mph battered the area around 1:45 a.m. Friday.

“We were awakened about 2 in the morning when it sounded like the wind was going to blow right through and shatter our windows,” MBTS student Ben Waligorski said. “We stayed in the basement for a half-hour to an hour before things seemed to calm down and we found our upstairs apartment intact. Our power, thankfully, was restored just before 8 this morning. Honestly, this morning, it’s hard to tell such powerful weather came through just last night!”

Some parts of the campus, however, were still without power at press time on Friday afternoon.

Anthony W. Allen, MBTS senior vice president of administration, said, “Our number one priority is to take care of our students. We are using a generator to temporarily restore the electricity to our men’s dorm until the power company can restore fallen electrical lines on campus.”

A group of MBTS students headed to 72nd Street, two miles from the campus where much of the damage occurred, to help with disaster relief efforts. The storms destroyed at least 200 homes and businesses in Kansas City.
Reported by Stella Prather, associate editor of the Arkansas Baptist News, and Amelia Hendra, communications director at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Further storm and ministry updates from Arkansas can be accessed at www.arkansasbaptist.org.

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