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By Tobin Perry
MOORE, Okla. – As Corey
Callens wades through the piles of broken furniture, brick, wood and toys that
used to be part of his home, he stops every so often to pick up something
“The shiny pieces fool you,”
The shredded children’s
books, clothing and video games scattered throughout the neighborhood can be
replaced. Seven championship rings from high school and his days as a four-year
starter for the University of Oklahoma’s football team can’t be replaced as
A team of seven Southern
Baptists from northern Texas helped Callens and his wife, Marisha, search for
irreplaceable memorabilia and begin the cleanup process Friday morning. An
historic EF5 tornado hit Moore, Okla., on Monday.
“I like to tell our team
that they’re short-term missionaries,” said Joe Henond of Paramount Baptist
Church in Amarillo, Texas, the team’s blue hat. “That’s what they are. We’re
here for a short period of time, but we’re missionaries just like the people
overseas. It allows people to come and do work and let their work be their
Henond believes helping
disaster survivors retrieve personal keepsakes—like Callens’ championship
football rings—can play a key part in the healing process.
“The people going through
this are so devastated that they need to see a ray of hope,” he said. “When
they can see that ray of hope and we’re doing what we’re doing for Jesus’ sake,
the Holy Spirit is going to work.”
Henond is among 183 Southern
Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from seven state conventions on the ground
serving the people of Moore, Okla., on Friday, four days after the tornado hit.
Today marks the most significant movement yet of Southern Baptists into
impacted areas as rescue efforts wind down and the significant work of cleanup
Volunteers responding in
Moore Friday are from the Baptist state conventions in Oklahoma, Missouri,
Iowa, North Carolina, Kansas-Nebraska and from the Southern Baptist of Texas
and Texas Baptist Men. The Oklahoma SBDR mobile kitchen in Moore has prepared
more than 20,000 meals, to date.
Meanwhile in Shawnee, 140
volunteers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, SBTC and TBM were working Friday. The
Oklahoma kitchen there has prepared more than 12,000 meals.
“The focus today is getting
teams into the affected area—getting our yellow shirts on the ground,” said
Eddie Blackmon, the North American Mission Board’s disaster relief coordinator.
“Ninety percent of the jobs will be debris removal. We’re going to assist
families in getting to their personal items as best we can.”
Along with teams
participating in debris removal, disaster relief chaplains continue to walk
through the grieving process with the families of the 24 people who died during
the tornado. Southern Baptist chaplains will be present at most of the victims’
funerals, the first of which took place yesterday. Several more will take place
today, including multiple funerals at First Baptist of Moore, the incident
command location for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
“Today will be the next
step,” said Susan “Bunny” Yekzaman, a disaster relief chaplain from First
Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla. “We’ve had the chance to work with them
through every hurdle and now this will be the biggest one.”
As an example of walking
through these hurdles, Yekzaman shared the experience of being with a mother
whose child had been killed earlier in the week.
“I’m here to walk through
this with you,” Yekzaman told her as they embraced.
“I don’t think I can walk;
I’m going to have to crawl,” the mother said.
“Then I’ll crawl with you,”
Yekzaman said as the two got down on their knees together.
Marisha Callens says that
the experience of seeing so many volunteers—including Southern Baptists—come to
her neighborhood and help with cleanup has taught her the importance of helping
“I really don’t know [why
people would come to help us], but I’m very grateful,” Callens said. “They’re
lending a helping hand and they’re total strangers.”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern
Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist
conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained
volunteers—including chaplains—and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw,
mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water
purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three
largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States,
along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
To donate to SBDR efforts,
contact the Baptist convention in your state or visit namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB
(6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.
Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission
Date Created: 5/24/2013 3:29:46 PM
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®© Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC