BUCHANAN, Va. (BP) – Southern Baptists in Virginia are providing immediate relief to the community of Buchanan County, after severe flooding last week affected around 450 homes in the area.
Torrential rain last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning (July 12-13), resulted in flooding which caused mudslides, the loss of power throughout the county and buildings to be moved off their foundations.
According to a weekend update from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, approximately 20 of the 450 homes affected by the flooding were destroyed.
Various media outlets reported up to 40 people initially unaccounted for in the county, but all have since been found. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency on July 13, as recovery in the southwest area of the state continues.
Send Relief tweeted its support for volunteers in the state, but Buchanan County is not yet ready for many outside volunteers as flood recovery is in the beginning stages.
While the county is not ready for help from outside teams, both Virginia Baptist state conventions are stepping up to provide immediate relief and assistance.
Glenn Maddox is the national missions director and disaster response coordinator for the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV). He said some BGAV volunteers have been serving in the county for several months, responding to previous flooding in the area.
Local volunteers and members of Grundy Baptist Church began providing meals to flood victims not long after the rain subsided.
Grundy Baptist has been serving more than 500 meals a day for the past week, Maddox said.
“It’s very empowering for the local church to establish themselves like this,” he said. “After the storm is over, the community will look to them, and they will remember who served during the crisis. This serves as part of our mission to help train churches not just to support relief teams that go out, but to respond to disasters in their own hometowns.”
Shawn Ames is a regional strategist with the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia (SBCV) as well as the coordinator for disaster relief ministry.
He said the variety of ways the convention is stepping up to serve include mobilizing recovery units as well as donating generators, supplies and financial assistance to local churches.
Garden Baptist Church, less than 20 miles from where most of the damage took place, has been offering access to generators and other needed supplies.
An SBCV DR chaplain and assessor began work in Buchanan Monday (July 18), and the convention is preparing to send a full team of trained volunteers to help with recovery as soon as next week, Ames said.
One tragic story from the damage shared in a video update from the SBCV, involved a couple whose brand-new home was impacted by the flooding.
The couple told volunteers they had just made their first mortgage payment on the home last month, before flooding came a few weeks later – flooding their insurance might not cover.
“When people experience this sort of disaster they are traumatized,” Ames said.
“People need not only physical help, but they need emotional and spiritual help. The immediate need is physical, but as we get in there and begin to meet physical needs, we also have the opportunity to give people a sense of hope that people are there to help them get their lives back on track.
“We then have the opportunity to share with them about Christ and about the hope that we have in Christ. Every time I see a disaster it reminds me that we live in a broken world, and there is brokenness all around them. So we go not just to meet their physical needs, but also share a simple Gospel presentation with them. That’s what motivates our team the most, is loving people and share Christ with them.”