ADAMSVILLE — McNairy County received extensive damage and lives were lost in the storms that swept across Tennessee on March 31 and the early morning hours of April 1, said Russ Wilkins, director of missions for Shiloh Baptist Church, based in Adamsville
Tennessee Emergency Management Association confirmed April 2 that nine people died in weather-related deaths in McNairy County.
Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief’s incident command post, manned by John and Kay Thomas of First Baptist Church, Sevierville, is set to begin operation on Tuesday, said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“The damage and loss that our community suffered last night was catastrophic,” the city’s police department said in a statement on April 1. “We send our condolences to all of those who were impacted by this event, not just in our community, but across the entire region.”
First Baptist Church, Bethel Springs, has been serving meals to those in need and to first responders, according to the news report. Wilkins said Morris Chapel Baptist Church in Morris Chapel also was providing food, showers, a place to charge phones and a place to sleep if needed. First Baptist Church, Adamsville, provided a meal on April 1, he added.
Jacob Brimm, pastor of First, Bethel Springs, told the Baptist and Reflector that his members did not receive major damage. He noted, however, that some youth and children who attend Wednesday events at the church live in homes that were damaged.
The church lost power but is working to get it restored and generators have been acquired, Brimm said. The church began serving meals on April 1. “We are going to do what we can to love on our community, feed people and start meeting needs,” he said.
Ironically, the church had just begun a drive to collect items for a sister church in Mississippi to help people affected by a tornado earlier in the week. “Now, we are shifting to collect items for our community. … The folks in Mississippi are now praying for us,” he added.
“It has been devastating.”
Joey Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Selmer, agreed. He noted that in the almost 10 years he has served in Selmer there has been a lot of tragedy. Residents of the area, however, pull together. “This is a close knit community.”
FBC’s main campus was not damaged but its north campus lost its gym and the worship center received damage. The north campus was unable to hold services April 2, but members attended at the main campus, Johnson said.
Wilkins talked with the mayor of McNairy County on April 1 who told him that 35 percent of the county was affected and that many people were still without power.
The only church which he knew had been damaged was the north campus of First Baptist Church, Selmer, which lost its gymnasium and sustained additional damage to the worship center. The worship center was unable to be used April 2. Members of the north campus attended the main campus in Selmer.
The Beech River Baptist Association disaster relief team came on Saturday to assist in cleanup efforts and assess damages. Wilkins said the DR teams are scheduled to return this week to help residents in the community.
Wilkins praised the association’s churches that were assisting their neighbors and friends throughout the county. As he was out in the community Saturday, he saw members of the association’s churches delivering water and assisting in any way possible
“We saw a spirit of people helping those in need and just doing what needed to be done,” Wilkins observed.
In his newsletter to the association this week, Wilkins wrote, “Several of our churches are affected in a variety of ways and many are doing what it takes to truly make an impact in communities. There are a lot of people that are hurting, some have lost everything, and others have even lost loved ones. Please be in prayer for our communities and pray that these storms are pointing people to their need for Christ.”
A “2023 Tornado Fund” has been established at TnDisasterRelief.org for those who wish to assist in recovery efforts.
Additional articles and photos will be posted at baptistandreflector.org as they become available. B&R