FRANKLIN — Recovery efforts have begun in earnest across the state, and Tennessee Baptists are leading the charge.
Fueled by the combined efforts of local churches and Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams, the clean-up and recuperation process is under way for the hundreds of Tennesseans who were left reeling after a series of tornadoes swept through West and Middle Tennessee on Dec. 9. The affected counties included Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Gibson, Montgomery, Robertson, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Weakley and Wilson.
News outlets reported six deaths and dozens of injuries from the storms, and an estimated 80,000-90,000 people were left without power.
Here’s an update on a few relief projects taking place in Middle Tennessee:
LONG HOLLOW BAPTIST CHURCH
Long Hollow Baptist Church opened several spaces in the church’s student building that were designated as places where families could gather to rest and recover. The spaces feature outlets where mobile devices can be charged, along with free WiFi. The spots also provide an option for laptops to be used for those who might be working remotely.
These spaces, which opened to the community on the morning of Dec. 11, are scheduled to be opened each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Long Hollow has also created a webpage — “Community Relief At Long Hollow” — where community members are able to find updates and information.
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH HENDERSONVILLE
Although First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, was in the path of the storm, the church’s facilities sustained only minimal damage. Several vehicles in the parking lot were damaged from fallen trees and flying debris.
FBC senior associate pastor Bruce Raley told the Baptist and Reflector that the church had about 800 people on its campus — most of whom were preparing for Saturday night’s Christmas presentation — when the tornado hit.
As the storm approached, everyone was asked to get between the pews or underneath pews in the sanctuary, Raley said in an email to the B&R.
“Just as we were doing that, the tornado (touched down) literally on our church property,” said Raley.
Over the next few moments, “there was probably as much praying during (the following) 10-minute span as there has even been,” said senior pastor Bruce Chesser in a video that he and Raley put online on Sunday morning.
Raley told the Baptist and Reflector that if the storm had been an hour later, there would have been roughly 2,500 more people on campus for the church’s annual Christmas presentation, “Christmas in the Ville.”
“The tornado basically came down Main Street in Hendersonville,” Chesser said, noting that the roof at the nearby Holiday Inn was essentially destroyed by the storm, and the roof at the YMCA collapsed, too.
Raley said, “We definitely are hurting for our neighbors.”
Chesser said many people have offered to volunteer their services as part of the relief effort, but, for the time being, he said: “I think our volunteers would best be served with a ‘neighbor helping neighbor’ (approach).’ ”
FBC, which lost power during the storm, canceled all of Sunday’s scheduled services and activities, including the second performance of “Christmas in the Ville” that was slated for Sunday night. The church remained without power as of Monday, Dec. 11.
Chesser said the sermon he was going to preach on Sunday was going to focus on Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Chester said the focal point of the sermon was examining how Joseph — despite all the unusual and unexplainable circumstances surrounding the birth of his son — elected to trust the Lord and to have faith “that God knew what He was doing.”
“There are times in our lives when we, too, just have to trust the Lord,” he said. “It could be a car wreck, a disease or the death of a child — and we don’t have an answer. But we have to just trust the Lord.”
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH GOODLETTSVILLE
First Baptist Church, Goodlettsville, will be hosting (housing) a team from Alabama Disaster Relief for the next seven to 10 days. The DR team from Alabama will be assisting with cleanup and recovery efforts in Madison and Hendersonville.
FBC pastor Lyle Larson and his staff contacted Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief specialist Wes Jones over the weekend to offer the church’s facility for whatever purpose was most needed. Larson said he was informed that the teams from Alabama needed a place to stay, and he said FBC welcomed the opportunity to host the volunteers.
FBC student pastor Noah Leighton is helping coordinate the accommodations.
“We are excited to be partnering with Alabama DR, and all of the awesome people in yellow,” said Leighton. “It is going to be a very busy week. Yet, we are looking at this opportunity as something God has entrusted us with. So, whatever we can do to be apart of showing our community the love of Jesus, we are all in!”
FBC posted a video on Monday morning in which Larson outlined some details for FBC members about the incoming team.
“They will be working during the day — cleaning up debris and sharing the gospel — and we (at FBC Goodlettsville) get to be a part of that by housing the volunteers,” said Larson. “My prayer for us as a church is that we will respond well and do everything we can to be a great host for them in these days.”
Larson said housing the teams might require some adjustments — in regard to the church’s upcoming events — but said the church would be happy to rearrange things as needed. B&R