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UPDATED: DR teams on site after EF-3 rips central Ill.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paragraphs 6-10, which describe the salvation decision of a Taylorville, Ill., resident, were added Dec. 5 at 1:50 p.m.

TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (BP) — Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) volunteers were in Taylorville, Ill., one day after an EF-3 tornado damaged 500 structures there.

Rare late-winter storms Nov. 30-Dec. 1 spawned tornadoes in Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma, killing one person in Missouri, CBS News reported. Though no fatalities have been reported in Illinois, the most severe damage was in Taylorville, some 25 miles southeast of Springfield, Ill., where at least 26 people were injured.

Several houses in Taylorville were “flattened,” and others had their roofs ripped off or saw “gaping holes” torn in their roofs, according to CBS.

“It turns your world upside down,” Taylorville resident Tim Stewart told The State Journal-Register in Springfield. Stewart’s unattached garage was destroyed by the storm, and his home was struck by the roof of a neighbor’s home that was torn off.

Approximately 45 IBDR volunteers were in Taylorville as of today (Dec. 4), working in four teams to assess needs, clean up damage and provide spiritual support to storm victims. One person has trusted Christ as his Lord and Savior amid the DR ministry.

Taylorville resident Mark Sockel heard the Gospel from disaster relief chaplain James Bathon and responded by putting his faith in Jesus.

Sockel had heard people say they’d been saved, he said, but “I didn’t exactly know what that meant until today.” The Lord was calling him, he said, “and I just picked up the phone today.”

DR chaplain Jan Kragness said, “When we’re here doing Disaster Relief, we want to help you physically. But we’ve not done our job if we have not also done something also to help you spiritually.”

After Sockel made his decision to trust Christ, the team talked to him about church, Kragness said, telling him “the name above the door of the church is not as important as what’s going on inside it.”

“But he did tell us he thinks he wants to look for a Southern Baptist church because he’d like to do Disaster Relief,” Kragness said.

The first 25 IBDR volunteers arrived in Taylorville Dec. 2, with assessors working to evaluate needs and one chainsaw team working to remove limbs felled by the storm.

“We will need chainsaw-trained cutters and lots of volunteers who are available to help clean up,” IBDR state coordinator Dwayne Doyle said, adding IBDR will connect DR-trained volunteers with teams already on the ground or planning to help in Taylorville.

The IBDR incident command center is set up in the Agricultural Building at the Christian County Fairgrounds. All IBDR-trained volunteers are welcome to check in there to be connected with active teams, Doyle said.

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  • Illinois Baptist & BP Staff