Baptists getting, staying busy in disaster areas
Now cleared to enter devastated towns in Arkansas, Baptist relief groups are moving in to help even as continuing violent weather is creating new victims.
By Jeff Brumley
Baptist disaster-relief groups are mobilizing now that they have a clearer picture of the need and permission to enter Arkansas and other parts of the South pounded by vicious waves of tornadoes since Sunday.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, American Baptist Churches USA, the Baptist World Alliance, Southern Baptist Convention and a number of state Baptist groups are already working in the impacted areas or making plans to do so.
CBF Arkansas inserted a team of relief workers in Vilonia today, the agency’s first operation since twisters killed more than a dozen in that state Sunday night. A storm chaser told media outlets the town looked like the community had been hit by a nuclear bomb.
CBF Arkansas Associate Coordinator Charles Ray said he’s been contacted by fellow responders in Missouri, Oklahoma and Florida to schedule long-term recovery work.
While parts of Oklahoma were also hit by twisters Sunday night, the damage was relatively minor compared to Arkansas.
Responders from First Baptist Church in Norman made preparations Monday to head to Arkansas as soon as they get the green light from Ray, said Steve Graham, coordinator of CBF Oklahoma.
Tommy Deal, U.S. disaster response coordinator for CBF, said he had scheduled a conference call with a number of the Fellowship’s state representatives Tuesday afternoon in an effort to gauge and coordinate response.
An official with Baptist World Relief sent an email to Baptist disaster responders from various denominations asking how the organization could be of assistance.
A major challenge facing responders is that the round of turbulent weather has continued with more on the way.
More twisters and other violent storms ravaged Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee on Monday, bringing the overall death toll to 31 over the two-day period, according to USA Today.
Alabama CBF issued a plea for help today, saying teams are needed to clean up debris in the Tuscaloosa area.
Meanwhile, Baptists are also working in North Carolina communities to repair and cleanup damage caused by twisters that struck that state April 25.
North Carolina Baptist Men and Women estimates more than 300 homes were damaged and said they have requests for assistance from more than 30 homeowners. Virginia Baptist Disaster Response has issued a call for volunteers.
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