By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
WAVERLY — Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief has set up an incident command post, recovery, chaplains and shower trailer at Trace Creek Baptist Church in New Johnsonville to assist flood victims in Humphreys County while First Baptist Church, Waverly, and other congregations also are responding to those devastated by the flooding that occurred over the weekend.
More than 17 inches of rain fell in areas of the county on Saturday, Aug. 21. Two of the hardest hit towns were Waverly and McEwen, said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. As of Sunday, Aug. 22, there were 22 reported deaths and at one point, up to 50 people missing. The number of missing has now decreased to the mid-20s, according to most news reports.
“The damage caused by yesterday’s rains in the Waverly, Dickson, McEwen and surrounding areas is tremendous,” Jones said. “The waters rose extremely fast and were swift. At least three of those who died were swept out of their parent’s arms. I cannot even begin to imagine the heartbreak that would cause,” he added.
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the TBMB said his “heart goes out to the people, pastors and ministry leaders in the flood zone. I have heard the burden and grief in the voices of those I have spoken with over the weekend. Words like ‘devastation’ and ‘nightmare’ were common reactions when describing the situation.
“These good people are not alone. Tennessee Baptists are responding with everything we have to offer. We will assist in the recovery and the rebuilding efforts over the long haul,” he said.
Scott Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church, Waverly, noted things began happening fast on Saturday. He joined others to help rescue people and search for survivors. He noted there was a lady connected with the church whose son was swept away. “We prayed for him and searched for hours,” Brown said. When it looked like he might not be found, someone spotted him on a roof and he was rescued. “That was the best thing that happened on Saturday,” he affirmed.
By the time Brown was able to get to his church, members, some who are trained DR members, were on hand and had already begun to set up operations. “It was fully functional by mid-afternoon,” he noted. The church housed people on Saturday night and has become a site for donations of clothing, baby supplies, food and more. “Every Sunday School room was filled with donations by Sunday,” the pastor said. “We are giving food and items out freely and liberally and will be doing so for at least a month,” he predicted.
“We have laid our ‘yes’ on the table. When someone has a need, we say yes, we have it or yes, we will get it,” Brown stated. He noted other churches have taken the same approach. “I told a pastor friend (Matt Greer of Missionary Grove Baptist Church in Camden) we needed three porta-johns and within an hour they were on site,” he said.
“We have been overwhelmed by the love shown by people all across the state and nation,” Brown said. “We could not be more proud of the people of God,” he said.
Brown said words cannot adequately describe the devastation he has witnessed. Houses have floated miles from their foundations, he noted. “There is nothing in my nightmares or things I have seen on video coverage of other floods that can compare to what I have seen.”
Brown said church members, along with DR volunteers from across the state, will be out in the community this week helping in whatever way they can. “We will take one step at a time and see what we can do to make much of Jesus,” he said.
Jones said, “Please pray for the people of the area around Waverly and the other affected communities who have lost so much and especially those who have lost loved ones. Pray that God would wrap his arms around them to comfort them and most of all the Lord would be lifted up in the midst of the disaster. Pray also for the volunteers that God will keep them safe as they seek to bring help, hope and healing to those affected.”
To give to assist in the response go to www.tndisasterrelief.org and click on the “Give Now” button or send gifts to TBMB, P.O. Box 682789, Franklin, TN 37068 and mark them for “Tennessee Floods Response.” B&R