By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector

Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers pause Sept. 1 during their work with homeowner Mary Hillen in Denham Springs, La. They are members of a team led by Woodland Baptist Church, Brownsville. From left are Lee Eyster; David White; Hillen; and Bill Cox, pastor, Trinity Baptist Church, Brighton.

Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers pause Sept. 1 during their work with homeowner Mary Hillen in Denham Springs, La. They are members of a team led by Woodland Baptist Church, Brownsville. From left are Lee Eyster; David White; Hillen; and Bill Cox, pastor, Trinity Baptist Church, Brighton.

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. — Bert Porch of Woodland Baptist Church, Brownsville, felt for Mary Hillen of Denham Springs. As she stood in her gutted living room, Hillen, a widow, explained that her family and friends had helped her but couldn’t do it all.

She still needed help and didn’t have flood insurance to pay for it. The disaster relief team of 11 led by Woodland Baptist began removing commodes, shower tile, and insulation and then sprayed for mold.

“There was mud on her chandelier,” said Porch. The water in her house was about 7 feet deep as 31 inches of rain fell in a few days, he added.

“When you see the amount of damage our help was definitely needed. There’s no way in this size of disaster for people to completely help themselves,” said Porch.

“They’re so happy to see us,” he added.

Steve Dusenberry, DR volunteer of Cumberland Baptist Association, based in Clarksville, agreed. “They are very appreciative of the help.”

“The scope of the damage” has shocked him though he has served for about seven years in TBDR. “It’s not just one pocket or neighborhood.”

Of the 130,000 residents in the Livingston Parish, 110,000 were affected and that includes businesses, he reported. He saw for the first time a bank ATM brought in on a trailer, said Dusenberry. People are out of work and businesses and even churches are closed. In south Louisiana, 13 people died in the August flooding.

“It’s a mess down here so the call for prayer and help needs to go out,” he stated.

His team of 11 was glad to help a family with four young children and a husband/father who was disabled after an accident some years ago. The Cumberland Association team also was glad to help a family including a policeman who was working very long hours because of problems with looting. His wife is ill with diabetes.

“He hasn’t had time to work that much on his house,” said Dusenberry.

Those helped by the Tennessee Baptists were identified by Southern Baptist DR assessors.

Porch’s team also helped a single lady who is in her 70s. Amazingly, her brother-in-law who is 75 years old had done much of the work on the house. The Tennesseans helped him with a particularly tough job of removing hardwood floors glued down to a concrete slab.

When they finished, they all gathered together to say good-bye. The team, as usual, presented the lady a Bible.

“She cried and we had prayer,” said Porch.

Finally, Porch’s team helped a lady who is epileptic and has multiple sclerosis by spraying her house for mold.

Everyone that both teams have served heard a gospel witness though no one made a profession of faith, said Porch and Dusenberry. They did hear of some DR volunteers from another state who saw people make professions of faith, Dusenberry added.

“People are working well together. The church is being the church. We’re seeing God work in miraculous ways,” said Dusenberry.

Coordinator reports

Currently, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief also is serving in Louisiana by operating a shower/laundry trailer at First Baptist Church, Gonzalez, La. The trailer is owned and operated by Hermitage Hills Baptist Church, Hermitage, metropolitan Nashville.

Two more teams from Tennessee are scheduled to serve — Central Baptist Church, Bearden, Knoxville, and Baptist Collegiate Ministry of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville assisted by some Knoxville area DR volunteers. The Central Baptist team will serve Sept. 17-23 and the UT team will serve on fall break, Oct. 6-9.

Wes Jones, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief director, reported that more flood recovery teams are needed. Volunteers may be DR trained or willing to work with DR trained volunteers, he said.

Needs in Louisiana

DR training is available Sept. 9-10 at First Baptist Church, Cleveland. Other churches are requesting training and that is being arranged, said Jones. For more information, go to www.tndisasterrelief.org or contact the TBDR office directly at 615-371-7926.

TBDR works in cooperation with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and the other 42 state Baptist conventions.

“DR volunteers need to go through us so we can arrange housing through NAMB and so they will be assigned to an area,” stated Jones.

To volunteer in Louisiana, contact Jones at wjones@tnbaptist.org, 615-371-7927, or 712-253-4408.

Other response by DR-related volunteers

Disaster relief of Nolachucky Baptist Association, based in Morristown, and Knox County Baptist Association, based in Knoxville, collected supplies for flood victims which were delivered to Louisiana Baptist contacts. Three huge deliveries were made.

Disaster relief of Sullivan Baptist Association, based in Kingsport, led by Jim Ramey, plans to deliver “flood buckets” filled with flood recovery supplies on Sept. 12-13. This effort was coordinated through the state Louisiana Baptist DR director, who has identified seven drop off points for the buckets. Ramey currently has about 100 buckets. For more information, contact lindac@sullivanbaptist.org or Ramey 423-579-2435.

Funding needs in Louisiana

A fund to support TBDR in this response has been set up and gifts can be given at tndisasterrelief.org to 2016 Louisiana Flooding Fund or by check made payable to the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Send the check to TN Baptist Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, TN 37024. Write on check the nature of any designation. Any checks received that do not have a designation will be used for general disaster relief.