Record February rainfalls have caused widespread flooding in Knoxville and the surrounding area, leaving more than 400 people displaced from their homes. Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief is prepared and responding to the need. Find out how you can help.
Chris Turner: Hello and welcome to this edition of Radio B&R. I’m your host, Chris Turner, director of communications at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and today we’re talking some disaster relief with what’s going on over in eastern Tennessee.
My guests here are Wes Jones, the director of disaster relief here in Tennessee, and then Phil Young, who is director of missions in the Knox County Association of Baptists. Guys, welcome in.
Wes Jones: Thank you.
Phil Young: Thanks, Chris.
Chris Turner: Well we have had record rainfall in February throughout Tennessee and one of the issues that that has caused is flooding across Tennessee. So, Phil, just talk a little bit about what you know as far as what’s kind of happening in the Knoxville area.
Phil Young: Over the weekend, the rains brought in some pretty significant flash flooding and extended flooding in the area, closing a lot of roads and schools and businesses and homes were all affected. Right now we have over 400 homes that have actually filed reports with EMA. We’re starting … and that probably means that there’s quite a few more than that. These are just the ones that have actually filed, so over 400 have actually made a filing with EMA.
Phil Young: 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 help meet the needs of the people who have been impacted so significantly by the flooding.
Chris Turner: Yeah, and Wes, this is a little unusual for Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief to actually be responding to a disaster in Tennessee. It seems like we’ve been in Florida and Texas and Louisiana and North Carolina and some other places here over the past couple years, but this is really a big deal for us now, so just talk a little bit about what you know at this point and what TBDR is starting to do.
Wes Jones: We at TBDR are starting to ramp up and get things going. As Phil said a minute ago, Lou Mulsand over there who oversees for the association of the DR part of it, he’s trying to locate a place for us to bring in teams and house teams and then also starting to call up teams from around the area. Knoxville is probably the hardest hit but Sevierville area was also hit again, having the fires a couple years ago and now this again. Some of those people are struck.
Wes Jones: We’re also getting reports from Spring City and also got a report today from Ooltewah, some houses down there. Spring City from what I understand is about 33 homes in that town and then Ooltewah they know of five homes in that area, so we’ll try to reach out and see where we can help and plug in and get some help to these folks.
Chris Turner: Yeah. When we talk about the flooding that we’ve had, I mean February literally was record. It’s not some sort of cliché. I mean it was a record rainfall we’ve had across Tennessee in February.
Wes Jones: Yeah, we’re really blessed. It could be a whole lot worse than we were seeing. Yes, it’s bad for those people that are affected, but middle Tennessee, west Tennessee for the most part have fared fairly well. There’s pockets here and there and some probably still remain to be seen as the water continues to go down, but considering all the rain that we had, we’re actually pretty blessed.
Chris Turner: Yeah. Phil, you’ve got in east Tennessee and especially in Knox County, there is a strong disaster relief presence. Just talk a little bit about how the Knox County Disaster Relief folks have been very involved in helping other places, but obviously this is an opportunity to help locally.
Phil Young: It really is. Knox County churches have some, in my opinion, some very, very strong disaster relief units.
Chris Turner: Yeah.
Phil Young: They’ve responded from Louisiana to Texas, all over the nation. It is important now that we have something right here at home and it’s an opportunity not only for those who are trained volunteers in our churches to spread out across the city and help each other, but also to be able to receive disaster relief volunteers from other parts of the state will now be coming in to Knoxville, so we certainly appreciate all of the teams who will be responding, and the strength of our own church disaster relief units I think is gonna come into play in a very significant way.
Chris Turner: You know, such a big part of disaster relief is the Evangelism and service aspect of it and you’ve had volunteers that have served in all those places that you’ve talked about, but this is an opportunity for them really to impact their community. I know some of the things that you’ve done as director of missions there is really trying to help churches with City Reach and so many other things. Look in the community and figure out ways to connect and serve in the community. This is an opportunity for people in your churches in that area to help bridge that gap between those that don’t know the Lord and need help and the church.
Phil Young: It really is. One of the things that we really stress is that we want our churches to be able to not only know the people of our community, but find different ways to encounter the people of our community. When disasters like this come in times of crisis, 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.
Chris Turner: Yeah, a very practical way. Wes, talk a little bit about what people can do as they hear, as word starts going out, other ways that they can respond. I know that you need to get some assessments done so there needs to be an idea of what work needs to be done and who needs to come in, but beyond that, what are some things people can begin to do?
Wes Jones: Number one as always is pray. It sounds trite sometimes, but that is the most important thing. If we don’t have the prayer behind us, to keep our volunteers safe, to open up doors of opportunity to share Christ, those that can pray for it is certainly number one. We do need finances. All our response related stuff is based on people that give. We don’t have any money set aside for actual responses and so people in Tennessee have always stepped up and done tremendous work over the last few years with all the big disasters to continue to give, and so we encourage them to do that.
Wes Jones: Also, get involved. As a matter of fact, Knox County is having a training next weekend and so if you’re not signed up for that, we encourage, if you’re interested in finding out about DR, especially the Knox County area, then go to the website, Tndisaterrelief.org and sing up there and find out what we’re about. If God leads you that way, start working with them.
Chris Turner: Yeah. You’ll be providing updates on the tndisasterrelief.org site. Phil, what have you got?
Phil Young: Yeah, I was just gonna say the training that Wes just mentioned coming up this weekend, March 1 and 2 at [inaudible 00:06:55] Baptist Church, has some specific training going on in the area of flood recovery, so it’s a very timely training event. We want to encourage people to come.
Chris Turner: Yeah. Get on that tndisasterrelief.org site, and there will be updates provided there. Also, there is the big give button there on the site and you can give directly to this, whether it’s online or you write a check and send it, you can designate that for disaster relief in Tennessee specifically for the floods in east Tennessee.
Chris Turner: Wes, as you start to move towards getting things ramped up, how long do you think it will be before you really start to have some boots on the ground with folks?
Wes Jones: My guess it will be by this weekend we’ll have boots on the ground. We look forward to it happening real quick and we’ll see what happens. As God opens doors, they find a place to stay, we’ll bring in teams. We’ve already been asked by North Carolina if we need assistance, so we went to North Carolina working them with Hurricane Florence this year and we still have teams that are going there, working with rebuilding so now we have the opportunity to … they want to be reciprocal and respond back and help us if we need it.
Wes Jones: Our guys, the men and women of DR have been real busy over the lats couple months going out to Florida and North Carolina and so we may ask for some help from other states to come in and be a part of it.
Chris Turner: Sounds good. Either of you guys got anything else to say on this particular instance?
Phil Young: On behalf of the people of Knox County, I just really want to thank all of the volunteers who will be mobilizing to help people in this time of need. Special thanks to our disaster relief units and personally want to thank Wes for the leadership he provides our state in mobilizing teams to come in time of need like this.
Wes Jones: Also, we have DR volunteers around the state who may not have a team to come with, if they’d like to come and be a part of that, we encourage the churches there in Knox County to get involved locally. These are your neighbors and it doesn’t matter. You reach out and help your neighbors and this is an opportunity to minister and to have opportunities to share Christ. We’ve seen that time and time again this year where people come to know Christ through the work of the disaster relief volunteers and them sharing their faith.
Chris Turner: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things we hear over and over again is disaster relief response is one of the most practical things we do as Tennessee baptists and as Southern baptists to connect with people and in a very real moment be able to share the Gospel with them. So as we’ve said, if you’re looking for that opportunity, check tndisasterrelief.org and I’m sure there will be some information as well on Knox County Association of Baptists website, so check that out. If you’re still looking for an opportunity, just contact us here at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and we’ll help get you connected.
Chris Turner: Guys, thanks a lot for taking a little time to talk about this.
Wes Jones: Thank you.
Phil Young: Thank you, Chris.