Tennessee Baptist DR units aid recovery from February floods
By Carolyn Tomlin
Contributing writer, B&R
JACKSON — February 2019 was one of the wettest Februaries on record in Tennessee. Torrential rains swelled the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers and all their tributaries to record flood levels.
Numerous homes and businesses in several counties near the rivers were flooded and underwater.
Flooding affected much of the state. In all, 58 counties in West, Middle and East Tennessee surveyed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were over their per capita damage threshold in public damage, according to an article in The Jackson Sun on March 26.
In Hardin County in southwest Tennessee, low-lying roads near the Tennessee River were covered in mud and water, preventing homeowners and volunteer teams from starting cleanup and mud out.
In dwellings along the banks of the river, water rose to 15 feet in second floor homes. Trees and limbs often covered the roads. Metal carports and RV covers were washed away and caught in fences and brush.
Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams, in some cases, had to wait more than a week before they could begin flood recovery efforts. Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, noted a lot of work has been done, but many recovery teams will be needed in the weeks ahead.
Thus far, the DR teams have already compiled more than 5,615 volunteer hours and 1,288 equipment hours (through March 27).
“I am so grateful for the work of our TBDR volunteers and those who have worked alongside them,” said Jones. “I’m also grateful for those who have come from other states to assist.”
Randy Kellough, pastor of Woodland Baptist Church in Brownsville, observed that “those who serve on our disaster relief team have a depth of appreciation for those affected through a natural disaster.
“Our volunteer teams serve on mud out, chain saw, tornado, hurricane, floods and wildfires. They work with those who plan to rebuild and start over again. For many homeowners, they salvage what they can — and for others — everything in the home ends up as trash to be picked up by local emergency management teams.”
Kellough said a sense of ministry dominates the team, and that this hands-on approach feeds back into the church and into the community. The Brownsville pastor noted that service produces a greater sensitivity to take the “church” outside the walls of the building.
“(DR) volunteerism is challenging and often hazardous,” said Butch Porch, a member of Woodland Baptist Church and team leader. “It’s hard work. Training is required before serving on a team.”
Though the rains have stopped for the most part, there is always the potential for flooding along the rivers, Porch continued. “It’s a concern that will not go away,” he said, adding that the effects of the February and March flooding will be around for many months.
“Hundreds of homes in Tennessee were either destroyed or received water damage. And, the ice melt up north hasn’t started yet, which means more flooding.”
Since early March, DR volunteers have served in Hardin County and Decatur County in southwest Tennessee. Fifteen members of Baptist churches in Madison and Haywood County have completed 10 homes. “But there are many more that need our help,” says Porch.
Debbie Morris of Maple Springs Baptist Church in Medon was one of the DR volunteers. She acknowledged she had not participated much in the past in DR ministry but plans to be more available now that she is retired. Morris has been trained as a DR chaplain. “When a family is going through this trauma, they need someone to talk with. I’m there for them.”
Jones reported March 27 that Texas Baptist Men have set up disaster relief operations in Adamsville, covering Savannah and Hardin County with volunteer teams from Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Prayer needs for Tennessee Baptists Relief Operations include:
• Pray for churches to serve as hosts for operations.
• Pray that more volunteers will be willing to serve on disaster relief teams.
• Pray that team members will be able to minister to those affected by the floods.
• Pray for the safety and health of those who serve on disaster relief teams.
• Pray that team members will share the blessings with those in their home church.
• Pray that Christ will be opening the hearts of those who need to hear the message of salvation.
For more information on DR, go to www.tndisasterrelief.org and click on the “Give Now” button. B&R — Tomlin, of Jackson, is a frequent contributor to the Baptist and Reflector and writes for numerous Baptist publications.