Litton, Wright visit storm-ravaged town, see Southern Baptist cooperation ‘at its best’

By Brandon Porter

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (BP) – Southern Baptist leaders prayed with pastors and residents Thursday as they continued recovering from the deadly line of storms that stretched across the Midwest and South leaving more than 75 fatalities. According to the National Weather Service, at least 41 tornadoes with winds of up to 190 mph cut a 200-mile path across Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee on Dec. 10 and 11.

(Left to right) Sam Porter, Jamie Ward, Bryant Wright and Ed Litton visit Bowling Green, Ky., Dec. 16 to survey the massive damage caused by a tornado outbreak days earlier. Photo by Morgan Bass

“It shocking to see the devastation,” said Bryant Wright, Send Relief president. “I can’t imagine what those folks experienced by going to bed one night and having the storms pounce on them.”

Jamie Ward, co-lead pastor at Hillvue Heights Church in Bowling Green, took Wright, Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton and Sam Porter, national director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief with Send Relief, to an area where two entire families were killed on one street and dozens were left homeless.

“We just appreciate Send Relief, the Southern Baptist Convention and the help you all are bringing,” Ward said. “You all are certainly bringing physical help, but you’re bringing spiritual help as well.”

Litton said reaching physical needs opens the door to speak to spiritual needs.

“The Gospel impact of relief is amazing because satisfying an immediate need helps to open the heart,” Litton said. “This is something we’re proud of as Southern Baptists, in the right sense, and we should be.”

(Clockwise from bottom middle) Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Gray, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief National Director Sam Porter, Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton and Send Relief President Bryant Wright pray Dec. 16 with Jamie Ward, co-lead pastor at Hillvue Heights Church in Bowling Green in the wake of a devastating tornado outbreak in the city. Photo by Morgan Bass

Litton hopes Southern Baptists will be encouraged to continue to give and support those affected by the storms.

“This is our life together as Southern Baptists at its best,” Litton said. “Out here, everyone knows we need each other from the associational, state level to the national level.”

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Director Ron Crow finds hope in knowing that Southern Baptists will continue to respond as the recovery moves forward.

“We’re expecting the recovery process to be several months and the rebuild process to last several years,” Crow said. “Our disaster relief teams will keep coming, and then the rebuild teams will begin coming. That is seeing the Cooperative Program lived out in real life.”

Todd Gray, Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer, is overwhelmed by the support pouring in from across the SBC.

“The ministry and compassion is just incredible,” Gray said. “Right now in Kentucky, DR workers from all across the country are wanting to come in. They’re ready the minute they get the word go. All we can say is thank you.”

Send Relief President Bryant Wright (left) joined Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Gray (second from right) on a disaster relief site visit in Bowling Green, Ky., Dec. 16. KBC DR Director Ron Crow (second from left) and Jimmy Lawrence (right), with North Carolina Baptists on Mission had already been working in the city. Photo by Morgan Bass

Litton said tragedies can show what’s truly important.

“It reminds us that material things are easy to destroy, but the basic necessities of life – which are emotional and spiritual – matter most,” Litton said. “My hope is and dream is that people will look on Southern Baptists and say, ‘Oh, how they love one another and how they love others.’”

Wright said it is the love of Christ that opens the door for the Gospel of Christ.

“All of this is about us working together as brothers and sisters in Christ to share the love of Christ tangibly,” Wright said, “but also to share the Gospel as opportunities arise.”

To donate to Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts, go to

Published December 16, 2021

Brandon Porter

Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.