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Tennessee DR responds after deadly storms; hundreds take cover at FBC Hendersonville

Cross Creek Baptist Church in Indian Mound, Tenn., received extensive damage in a tornado Dec. 9. The tornado was one of at least 13 that touched down in an outbreak in Tennessee and Kentucky.

MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (BP) – With Christmas just around the corner, many Tennesseans are dealing with the aftermath of a series of tornadoes that swept through West and Middle Tennessee on Dec. 9.

Tennessee Baptist DR teams responded immediately to the storms, and recovery efforts are under way.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Association (TEMA) reported Dec. 10 that the Storm Prediction Center’s preliminary findings cited 13 tornadoes from Saturday storms.

Counties affected by the tornadoes included Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Gibson, Montgomery, Robertson, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Weakley and Wilson. Radar also indicated possible tornadoes in Lawrence and Rutherford counties, but that does not necessarily mean they touched the ground.

When one tornado came through Hendersonville, Tenn., hundreds of people were in the building at First Baptist Church, preparing for the second of what was supposed to be three performances of “Christmas in the Ville,” the church’s annual Christmas production attended by thousands.

“Six-hundred to 800 people were in the sanctuary, in the foyer, around the building,” said Senior Associate Pastor Bruce Raley in a video posted Sunday.

“We quickly got them into the sanctuary and asked everybody to get between the pews, under the pews. Just as we did, the tornado went literally on our church property,” said Raley, who appeared in the video with Senior Pastor Bruce Chesser.

Several cars in the church parking lot were crushed by trees, Raley said, but no one was in them. Amazingly, no one on the church campus was injured.

The church canceled the remaining two performances of its Christmas program as well as Sunday services Dec. 10. In the video, Chesser said he had planned to preach on Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.

“With all the things that happened the way that it did, Joseph just had to trust that God knew what He was doing,” Chesser said.

“There are times in our lives when we just have to trust the Lord. It could be a car wreck, it could be disease, it could be the death of a child. And there are no answers. There’s no answer. Sometimes we just have to trust the Lord and say that He knows what He’s doing.”

News reports indicate six people were killed, dozens injured and an estimated 80,000-90,000 people left without power as a result of the storms. A reported 18,000 were still without electricity in the state as of Monday, Dec. 11.

Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist, issued a call early Saturday evening for all Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams to be ready to respond as needed.

Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, was in contact with dozens of pastors on Saturday and was “very encouraged by a ‘can do’ compassion articulated by these brothers. Past responses to difficult times would assure us that we will take care of each other through this event,” Davis said.

Davis pledged that Tennessee Baptist DR “will show up, clean up, and help rebuild in the days ahead.

“I am thankful for the generosity of churches and brothers and sisters from across our state that allows us to respond immediately after the storms and be there for the long haul of restoration,” he added.

Relief efforts began on Sunday as local DR teams assessed the damage.

Cross Creek Baptist Church in Indian Mound received extensive damage, Jones reported. He said a DR team from JST Association, led by Bill Lowe, helped the church with clean up on Sunday.

In Weakley County, Tommy and Karen Wilson, DR directors for Weakley Baptist Association, assessed damages in Dresden and Rutherford. A team from Woodland Baptist Church in Brownsville, which includes volunteers from other West Tennessee churches, were at work on Monday in the Rutherford area.

Jones said three DR operations will be set up in Middle Tennessee.

  • First Baptist Church Gallatin will host volunteers beginning Tuesday, Dec. 12. John and Kaye Thomas of First Baptist Church Sevierville will serve as site commanders. A combined team from Nolachucky and Knox County Baptist associations is scheduled to help with relief efforts in the Gallatin area.
  • First Baptist Church Goodlettsville will host a DR team from Alabama to assist homeowners in the area.
  • A third site will be set up at Real Life Church near Fort Campbell to assist residents of Clarksville and Montgomery County. Cumberland Baptist Association DR, led by Juanita Dearth, is coordinating efforts there with local teams early in the week and outside teams who might be available later.

To contribute to Tennessee Baptist DR, go to tndisasterrelief.org and click on Contributions and then select 2023 Tornadoes Fund.

    About the Author

  • BP Staff
  • Lonnie Wilkey/Baptist & Reflector