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Baptists in District 5 assist damaged areascomment (0)

December 8, 2011

By Leigh Pritchett

April 27 was a heartbreaking day for thousands upon thousands in Alabama.

A series of 62 tornadoes crisscrossed the state, leaving their mark of destruction upon lives, homes and land.

“It was an awful, terrible thing when the storms hit,” said Joe Bob Mizzell, director of the office of Christian ethics and chaplaincy ministries of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM).

Not long after the storms, the SBOM asked unaffected associations to undergird those that experienced damage.
“We had excellent cooperation” from the associations, Mizzell said.

Alabama Baptists’ District 5 region of the state — which comprises the extreme southeastern counties of Barbour, Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Pike — was spared storm damage. Nonetheless churches in the associations covering those counties swiftly went into action.

Barbour Baptist Association
In Barbour Baptist Association, First Baptist Church, Eufaula, and Louisville Baptist Church mobilized teams for relief efforts. Louisville Baptist also collected Totes for Hope, containers filled with supplies to help restock kitchens, said Donna Harrison, administrative ministry assistant for Barbour Association.

Director of Missions (DOM) Curtis Rich added that Calvary Baptist Church, Eufaula, took supplies to Tuscaloosa.

Clayton Baptist Church not only sent supplies to Elmore County but also made contributions to disaster relief, Harrison said.

Plus Pine Level Baptist Church, Louisville, provided a truckload of water. Meanwhile Parkview Baptist Church, Eufaula; Evergreen, Prospect, Pleasant Plains and Union Baptist churches, all in Clayton; Mount Zion Baptist Church, Louisville; and Spring Hill Baptist Church, Clio; gave funds toward disaster relief.

Even though seven months have passed since the storms, the association’s churches are not forgetting the people whose lives were affected that April day.

Some churches and the association are planning missions trips to rebuild, hold Vacation Bible schools, whatever is needed, Rich said.

“Several of our churches are really interested in missions projects,” he said.

Rich explained that he is contacting DOMs in north Alabama to investigate possibilities for missions trips.

“That’s our focus right now, to follow up this coming year,” Rich said.

It is his hope that there will be several trips planned for different times of the year.

He noted that congregations have grown excited about meeting needs outside their church walls. He said they want to do “hands-on” missions, making a difference in people’s lives.

Hands-on missions and prayer are very important right now, Rich said. Prayer and a “commitment and dedication of putting feet to our prayers” are the ways people can help those affected by the storms.

“We’ve got to see some action going on,” Rich said.

Coffee Baptist Association
Members of Coffee Baptist Association churches also have sought to be servants to those in need.

DOM John Granger said the association has worked to connect volunteers with cleanup/recovery and construction projects.

In addition, Granger noted that members of some churches have initiated trips. One such trip was taken by First Baptist Church, Enterprise. A sizable group of volunteers from that church worked in Tuscaloosa, Granger reported.

“Quite a few churches had their own connections” and undertook their own projects, he said.

Volunteers have worked in Pleasant Grove, Birmingham, Hackleburg and Elmore County, too, Granger said.

Also donations have been given to particular people in certain areas, as well as projects of the various teams from Coffee Association, he said.

Most of the association’s 50 churches have assisted those impacted by the storms in some way: giving money, collecting needed items or volunteering, Granger said.

“A lot of people have gone, and people are still doing stuff,” he noted.

“Even the small churches have given. And some of the small churches gave big,” Granger said, naming Shiloh Baptist Church, Elba, as an example.

According to Granger, Coffee County understands what it is to need assistance after a tornado. After a 2007 tornado, the county experienced the kindness of people from Maine to Oregon, he said.

“It really was an amazing response,” Granger recalled.

And from it, Coffee Association learned a valuable lesson about how to respond to a storm-damaged area.

In the aftermath of a tornado or other disaster, relief organizers are very taxed with responsibilities. For that reason, the association’s volunteers tried to be connected to a specific need prior to leaving on a relief mission.

Once a connection was made, “we’d get a group together to send,” Granger said.

Another lesson Coffee Association has learned through the years is to keep disaster relief ever on the minds of church members. Granger said this is being accomplished by having a disaster relief contact in every church in the association.

Moreover, to be better prepared to respond, the association constructed a building last year to house all its disaster relief equipment.

Columbia Baptist Association
The people of Columbia Baptist Association responded to the April 27 tornadoes with assistance in chain saw projects, debris removal and other tasks in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, DOM Jerry Grandstaff said.

Plus “various churches in our association did things on their own,” assisting in areas where they had contacts already, Grandstaff said.

To continue helping, Columbia Association has been in contact with Calhoun Baptist Association to offer assistance with rebuilding that is in progress there.

The churches and the association remain willing to meet needs wherever they can, Grandstaff added.

“We’re fortunate we have a very strong disaster relief team,” he said.

Columbia Association has disaster relief volunteers trained in chain saw, cleanup/recovery, chaplaincy, feeding unit, child care and construction. Probably 10 are able to respond anytime, Grandstaff noted.

Since April, “a great deal has been accomplished” through the work of Southern Baptist disaster relief, Grandstaff observed.

Yet the needs, in general, continue to be the same as they were April 28: praying for those affected, contributing funds to construction efforts and volunteering, he said.

Dale Baptist Association
Congregations in Dale Baptist Association sent trucks loaded with supplies, food and water. Individuals and teams from churches went to help those in need. Money from the association was given to affected areas.

“A lot of our folks went to Tuscaloosa,” as well as Birmingham and other locales, DOM Kenneth W. Hale said.

Chaplains from Dale Association responded also, Hale said.

The association and its churches did “basically the things you would do if you’re not in a disaster. We were the blessed ones,” he said of the 34 churches that comprise Dale Association.

“A great deal of our churches have participated in some way,” Hale said of Dale Association’s disaster relief efforts. “Our churches really rallied to do stuff.”

Volunteers worked on houses, removed debris and helped some people begin to put their lives back together, he said.

Of course, much remains to be done. Hale said it is necessary to continue to pray for an awareness of needs “until everything is as back together as can be.”

He said Christians must remember to give and help rebuild.

“The farther from a disaster, we forget there’s a need,” Hale said. To try to avoid that, Dale Association is looking at the possibility of a rebuilding missions trip.

Geneva Baptist Association
As soon as possible after the tornadoes, missions teams from five Geneva Baptist Association churches went to storm-damaged areas of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, DOM Dicky McAllister said.

One team has returned since then for a construction project, McAllister added.

Plus churches collected contributions for those affected by the storms and forwarded the funds to Calhoun County.

Also a day’s sales at the association’s thrift store were devoted to helping people impacted by the storms, McAllister said.

He believes that all 34 churches in his association have been involved either directly or indirectly in ministering to those impacted by the tornadoes.

But McAllister realizes recovery from such a widespread catastrophe is going to be a long process.

Prayer is crucial, he said. “Keep praying with them and for them.”

Judson Baptist Association
Some members of Judson Baptist Association churches mobilized quickly and went to Tuscaloosa to work, DOM George Thompson said.

That team “was totally amazed at the damage that was done” in Tuscaloosa, Thompson said.

Soon after, a team traveled to Choctaw County to work and take water. The situation there was significant as well, Thompson said.

“I’ve never seen anything like it myself,” he observed.

In addition, churches and the association gave financial assistance for recovery and construction in the state’s northern counties, Thompson said.

For a year, Judson Association is partnering with Tallapoosa Baptist Association to help it with rebuilding projects and other storm-related needs, Thompson said.

When the tornadoes hit in April, the association had only a small number of certified disaster relief volunteers, Thompson said. It has more now and anticipates adding to the number in 2012.

“That was a wake-up call,” Thompson said about being prepared to assist in a crisis.

Salem-Troy Baptist Association
Soon after the April 27 storms, volunteers from Salem-Troy Baptist Association went to Pleasant Grove and Concord to conduct chain saw projects and remove debris, said Luke Lane, moderator for the association and pastor of First Baptist Church, Troy.

Salem-Troy Association churches also collected requested items that went to different areas of the state, Lane said.

To aid in recovery, “our association has partnered with other Baptist churches in the state,” Lane said. He added that the association is open to more partnerships and opportunities to help.

Linda Adams, administrative assistant with Salem-Troy Association, noted that Ansley Baptist Church, Troy, purchased Bibles and sent them to Tuscaloosa when a group from Troy University’s Baptist Campus
Ministries went there on a summer missions trip.

Adams said the April storms increased awareness of the need for disaster relief and the importance of corporate work as the body of Christ.

She, too, said prayer, money and time are the essentials for helping those directly impacted by the storms.

But Adams, who was on the team that responded to Pleasant Grove and Concord, said a listening ear is something people also need because they want to tell their stories — they just need someone to listen.


How to assist in relief efforts
For help in connecting with associations that need construction projects, call Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ tornado rebuild assistant Penny Flowers at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 597.

For a list of needs across the state, visit www.sbdr.org.

For other ways to get involved, call
• Barbour Baptist Association at 334-775-8633,
• Coffee Baptist Association at 334-894-6411,
• Columbia Baptist Association at 334-794-6281,
• Dale Baptist Association at 334-774-2713,
• Geneva Baptist Association at 334-588-3276,
• Judson Baptist Association at 334-585-3274 or
• Salem-Troy Baptist Association at 334-566-1538.  (TAB)

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