By Lonnie Wilkey
KNOXVILLE — After nearly two years of nonstop response to needs caused by hurricanes across the United States, Puerto Rico, and Dominica, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are needed in their own state.
Record amounts of rainfall in February caused severe flooding in many areas of the state last week.
Among the hardest hit areas of the state was Knoxville. According to a Knoxville city office, as of Feb. 26, there were more than 1,000 homes and businesses damaged and 143 area roads closed at the height of the flooding.
“The rain brought significant flash flooding and extended flooding in the area,” affirmed Phil Young, director of missions for the Knox County Association of Baptists, based in Knoxville.
“Right now, we have more than 1,000 homes that have actually filed reports with EMA,” he reported. “We are in the process now of trying to do some assessments on those needs, to see exactly how Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief can respond in flood recovery to meet the needs of those who have been impacted so significantly,” Young added.
In a Radio B&R podcast (see Episode 24 of Radio B&R) Feb. 26, Young and Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, discussed the needs in Knoxville and surrounding areas.
“Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief is beginning to ramp up,” Jones said. He noted Knoxville probably was the hardest hit area in the state, but added that homes also were damaged in Sevierville, Spring City and Ooltewah.
Jones updated the list on March 1. Other areas that will need assistance include Savannah, Decatur, Hamblen County and the Tri-Cities area in East Tennessee. All flood recovery and shower and laundry units are on alert and chaplains and assessors also will be needed, he said.
Still, Jones acknowledged it could have been much worse, given the record amount of rainfall recorded all across Tennessee. “Considering all the rain we’ve had, we’re actually pretty blessed.”
Young said the opportunities in East Tennessee give volunteers the opportunity to help meet local needs. ‘It is important now that we have something right here at home and it’s an opportunity for those who are trained as volunteers in our churches to spread out across the city and help each other.” He noted the association also is preparing for volunteers who will be traveling into Knoxville to assist in flood recovery. The association is also working to secure housing in area churches for volunteer teams, the DOM said.
Young observed that when disasters strike, “it’s an open opportunity for us to show the love and compassion of Christ in a very tangible way as we meet them at this point of physical need, and in doing that, they’re open to an opportunity for us to be able to meet them at their spiritual need as well.”
As teams prepare to go to Knoxville and East Tennessee, Jones appealed for Tennessee Baptists to pray. “It sounds trite sometimes, but prayer is so important.” He specifically asked for prayer for the safety of volunteers, for those who have been affected by the flooding and for doors to open for opportunities to share Christ.
Finances also are needed in any response. “We don’t have any money set aside for actual responses but people in Tennessee have always stepped up and provided resources for our various disaster responses over recent years.”
Jones also cited the need for volunteer teams and individual trained volunteers. “My guess is we will have boots on the ground in the Knoxville area by the weekend (March 1-3). As God opens doors and we find places for volunteers to stay, we will bring the teams in,” Jones said.
The Tennessee DR specialist added that North Carolina has called and offered assistance. Many Tennessee volunteers worked in North Carolina last year following Hurricane Florence.
Young is appreciative of the willingness of volunteers to help Knoxville residents recover from the flooding. “I just want to thank all of the volunteers who will be mobilizing to help people in this time of need,” he said.
The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board has established a 2019 Tennessee Flooding Fund to assist DR efforts. Visit https://tndisasterrelief.org/contributions/ to make an online contribution or send checks to Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 682789, Franklin, TN 37068. Make sure checks are designated for 2019 Tennessee Flooding Fund.
DR volunteers interested in traveling to East Tennessee or in other parts of the state as they become known can contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.