SBC Life Articles

The Tennessee Flood of 2010

In what was an all-too-common story around Nashville and Middle Tennessee, a Two Rivers Baptist Church pastor said May 4 that "dozens" of families in his congregation saw their homes flooded from a record-setting rainfall, and many of them have no flood insurance.

The flood, which was the result of what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Corps of Engineers described as a "1,000-year rainfall event," damaged thousands of homes May 1-2 after more than thirteen inches of rain fell in a 48-hour period, pushing streams, creeks, and the Cumberland River far over their banks, and flooding roads, houses, and businesses. More than twenty people died statewide as a result of the floods. The Cumberland River began receding after it crested about twelve feet above the flood level.

"There are houses where water is up to the roof. It's total devastation," Scott Hutchings, executive pastor of Two Rivers Baptist, told Baptist Press.

Gov. Phil Bredesen declared fifty-two of the state's counties disaster areas and requested federal aid, and eventually more than forty counties in West and Middle Tennessee were declared major disaster areas by the federal government.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean reported the estimated cost of the flood damage reached more than $1.5 billion in Nashville alone and would climb even higher.

David Acres, Disaster Relief Director for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said 10,000 homes were flooded in the Nashville area but another 200,000 homes were flooded in the rest of the state.

Two Rivers and hundreds of churches across the region spent much of the days following the weekend of flooding checking on their members and communities, surveying the damage, and determining how they could help. Churches then recruited and deployed volunteers who could go out and help do everything that is needed to repair a flooded home — cleaning out the mud, tearing up carpet, replacing drywall.

Two Rivers is located just a few thousand feet from the Cumberland and just across the street from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, which was flooded with around ten feet of water and which will be closed for months. Although Two Rivers' building itself was spared from any major damage, the surrounding communities were not. The Pennington Bend neighborhood — less than a mile from Two Rivers — was nearly completely flooded. The Nashville Police S.W.A.T. team used boats to rescue more than eighty families from their flooded homes.

Two Rivers initially sent out scores of church members in teams to assess needs and pray with victims. The church facility eventually served as a major coordination and facilitating command post for hundreds of volunteers, some who traveled from across the nation.

Two River Baptist Church received national attention on ABC's Good Morning America show when it broadcast flood coverage from the church's parking lot.

On the opposite side of Nashville, the flood relief work of another Southern Baptist church in Nashville was featured May 6 by CNN's Anderson Cooper, who applauded the state's response and said he had "never seen" such an outpouring of volunteers following a natural disaster.

Cooper broadcast live from the Nashville community of Bellevue, which was hit hard by the May 1-2 disaster.

"It's an incredible place," Cooper said earlier in the night on CNN in previewing his show. "I've never seen so many volunteers so quickly after a disaster, descending and helping out neighbors — thousands of members of church groups and individuals who just come out. You see people in front of homes and you say, 'Is this your home?' They're like, 'No, I'm just here, I just came down here to help.' It's an incredible sight to see. It's a real testament to the spirit and strength of Nashville."

Cooper walked around the Bellevue community and bumped into a team from Judson Baptist Church that was helping clean out one flooded home, pulling out spoiled insulation and sheet rock. The flood in the area reached four feet in the homes, Jack Oliver, a minister at Judson Baptist, said.

"It's amazing," Cooper said, "because we were in New Orleans [following Hurricane Katrina], and it took months in some cases to get to this point. To see this, just a couple of days after — it's a sign of how organized things are here, largely thanks to volunteers."

Oliver told Baptist Press, "We're doing what Jesus would do — meeting the physical needs of the people. He told us to love your neighbor as yourself. That's what we're trying to do. If Jesus were here Himself, He would be walking up and down these streets, ministering to people's needs and trying to console them."

Oliver told BP that assisting flood victims is going to be a three-stage process: 1) helping with initial disaster relief, such as gutting out homes, 2) helping people financially, and, 3) helping people during reconstruction. Many people, he said, will need a place to stay, if not now then during reconstruction.

"Believers have to be financially sensitive to what the Lord tells them to do and support folks financially," Oliver told BP. "A lot of folks don't have flood insurance, and lot of them aren't going to be able to get a $20,000 or $50,000 loan. The Christian community needs to respond and say, 'God, do you want us to forgo our vacation?'"

He added, "It's an opportunity for believers to live out Philippians 2 — others are more important than ourselves."

Compiled from articles by Baptist Press and Baptist and Reflector.



Baptists Responding to a 1,000-Year Event

Calling recent major flooding a once-every-1,000-year event, Tennessee's congressional delegation asked President Obama for additional federal aid beyond what had been planned.

The legislators thanked Obama for the federal government's response but said more needs to be done.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said May 11 that 23,000 residents in forty-two Tennessee counties had registered for federal aid. Southern Baptists across the state stepped up to help, the Baptist and Reflector newsjournal reported.

Randy Davis, Tennessee Baptist Convention president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Sevierville, visited five associations affected by the flooding.

"This could be one of Tennessee Baptists' finest hours as we respond to help each other as well as other victims affected by the tragic flooding," Davis said.

Tennessee Baptist disaster relief set up its feeding unit at Judson Baptist Church in Nashville May 6 and prepared more than 12,000 meals a day. The American Red Cross distributed the food to flood victims not only in Nashville but in towns outside the city.

Additionally, the Hardeman County Baptist Association set up its feeding unit at Buffalo Baptist Church in Hurricane Mills — seventy miles west of Nashville — preparing more than 6,000 meals a day, and a Shiloh Baptist Association feeding unit prepared 2,000-plus meals a day at Poplar Heights Baptist Church in the West Tennessee city of Jackson.

Meanwhile, specially trained Southern Baptist flood recovery teams — often called "mud-out units" — were on the ground throughout the state helping clean out flooded homes. Also, Baptist flood recovery teams from Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and North Carolina joined to assist in the effort.

David Acres, the Tennessee Baptist Convention's disaster relief director, worked through volunteers and workers across the state to assess needs and send workers. Trained disaster relief volunteers, along with chaplains, will still be needed, Acres said.




Donate to Tennessee flood disaster relief at www.TnBaptist.org or by sending a check to TBC, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, TN 37024, with the designation "TN Floods 2010" on the check. Learn ways to help in the Nashville area at www.nashvillebaptistassociation.org. Learn ways to help in the Clarksville area at www.cumberlandba.org. Flood victims may complete a form at www.TNBaptist.org to request assistance. Forms can be faxed to 615-371-2014 or scanned and e-mailed to [email protected].

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