By Carolyn Tomlin
Contributing Writer, B&R

dr-disaster-relief-logoBROWNSVILLE — When the call came a few years ago from Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief to assist people who had been affected by an ice storm in Missouri, Woodland Baptist Church here responded.

In the summer of 2016, the team once again loaded up trucks and equipment and headed to Louisiana to help flood victims when the mighty Mississippi River overflowed.

And last November, the team was called to North Carolina to work with cleanup from Hurricane Matthew. And in between natural disasters, the relief team cuts trees and builds ramps for handicap people locally.

Often people believe that only the larger churches can commit to this type of work. But Woodland Baptist, with a total Sunday School enrollment of 93 and an average attendance of 55-60, has a strong commitment to missions. This emphasis started a few years ago and has grown in volunteer work.

The disaster relief team, led by Butch Porch and men of Woodland Baptist consists of seven other small churches from Haywood Baptist Association including Zion, Holly Grove, Allen, and Trinity in Brighton, Mt. Gilead in Lexington, Maple Springs, and Mercer Baptist in Madison-Chester Association.

The team initially was formed by Woodland members but grew as churches learned of opportunities to serve God and people in need. In the beginning, the team was a chain saw unit. Later, they added mud out, assessments, and chaplains.

The team made two trips this fall to assist people in Denham Springs, La., near Baton Rouge, said Bert Porch, a deacon at Woodland Baptist.

He observed that there are numerous problems in working in a flood area. Each home owner had to be relocated and housed until their homes can be made livable again. As these homes were not in a flood zone, they had no flood insurance, Bert Porch said, adding that most people lost everything they owned including their cars which sometimes are under water due to the flooding.

His brother agreed. “It’s difficult to see everything a family owns thrown on a pile in the street for pickup,” said Butch Porch, adding that many of the items such as pictures and family heirlooms can never be replaced.

“These people have worked years for these possessions and now they are gone. But through it all, they know God is in control. They continue to praise Him for His blessings.”

“We never know what opportunities God will provide for us to share His love with others,” said Bert Porch. “Every day is different.”

Wherever the team worked, they had prayer and gave out Bibles. “One trip was all that it took,” said Butch Porch. “Faces and tears touch the heart. If it doesn’t change you, something is wrong.”

“We are thankful that this group of volunteers from small churches in West Tennessee came together to form a team in order to meet needs and minister to people who are hurting. That is what all of us are called to do,” said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

Any church can be involved in disaster relief regardless of size, he added. For more information about Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief, contact Jones at