‘Overwhelming’ Midwest floods draw SBDR response

Floods in Nebraska and Iowa have left at least three people dead and two others missing and presumed dead. Weather.com screen capture.

HORNICK, Iowa (BP) — Midwest floods that have left at least three people dead and ruined hundreds of homes are being met with a multistate Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response.

“This is overwhelming us,” said Frank McCrary, disaster relief director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists (KNCSB). “We’ve already called to our region for backup.”

Heavy rain and melting snow have caused rivers to reach historic levels in 41 locations across the Midwest, according to Weather.com, with ice chunks from wintry floodwaters piled 10 feet high in some regions. Two people have died from flooding in Nebraska and one in Iowa. Two others are missing and presumed dead in Nebraska.

In Sarpy County, Neb., alone, 500 homes have been ruined by floodwaters, according to media reports. The total number of damaged homes across the region is estimated to be much greater.

SBDR teams from at least seven Baptist state conventions have volunteered to assist teams from the KNCSB and the Baptist Convention of Iowa, according to reports from McCrary and the North American Mission Board.

In Hornick, Iowa, where virtually all of the town’s 60-70 houses have been damaged, Iowa pastor Bob Dillman began leading a mudout team today (March 18). When Dillman spoke to Baptist Press, his team was helping its first local resident clean and remove damaged furniture from a flooded house. At least 15 other Hornick residents signed up for assistance.

“We’re the hands and feet of Christ,” said Dillman, associate pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa. “So we just love on [flood victims]. We prayed this morning before we went out, ‘Give us opportunity to share the Gospel.'”

Hornick residents are “up and down” emotionally, with some planning to rebuild and others resigned to walk away from their devastated residences, Dillman said. After historic floods in 1998, “they thought it would never happen again. Well, it did.”

McCrary told BP that Kansas-Nebraska teams are on standby for mudout work. “We have to wait until the water goes down until we can do our mudout operations,” he said.

To date, at least 56 Nebraska counties have issued emergency declarations, and floodwaters continue to rise, McCrary said. Some Nebraska church basements have flooded, but no church that cooperates with the KNCSB has reported major damage to its facilities.

Nebraskans who have “lost everything” are “devastated,” said McCrary, who worked with flooded residents as a DR chaplain March 17.

In Missouri, DR leaders mobilized volunteers “to assist with sandbags in St. Joseph over the weekend,” said Eric Barb, DR systems coordinator for the Missouri Baptist Convention. DR teams are poised to respond to flooding in Missouri if necessary.

“There is still potential for flooding as areas in the north are still getting water and all of the ice and snow from the winter hasn’t completely melted yet,” Barb said via email. “All of that could melt and make its way into the Missouri and then Mississippi Rivers. We are keeping our eyes out for any potential issues in the days and weeks to come.”

National SBDR Director Sam Porter told BP “SBDR is planning with Kansas-Nebraska and Iowa state DR directors to bring in SBDR volunteers to assist when the areas flooded are able to be accessible.”

In the meantime, locals are doing their best to help one another.

“Here in the Midwest,” McCrary said, “we take care of each other.”

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.
MASHALLTOWN, Iowa (BP) — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams have begun cleanup work in Marshalltown, Iowa, following a devastating tornado July 19.

A Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief team arrived Tuesday to set up incident command at Iglesia Karios in Marshalltown. Chainsaw teams from Iowa have dispersed throughout the city to clear debris. An SBDR feeding team has prepared meals for recovery workers in the area.

Additional SBDR volunteers from Kansas-Nebraska and Florida already are on the ground in Marshalltown. Carlson, co-director of Iowa Baptist Disaster Relief, expects volunteers from other nearby states to arrive later this week and early next week. Teams from other states interested in providing assistance should contact their state disaster relief director.

“It looks like a war zone to tell you the truth,” Carlson said. “When you go downtown, you’ll see a lot of glass and brick everywhere.

“On the east part of town, there are about 10 blocks that are very heavily hit. There’s really not many trees standing. A lot of those homes aren’t livable,” Carlson said.

The EF-3 tornado injured at least 235 people in the town of 27,000 located 50 miles northeast of Des Moines. Carlson estimates that at least 100 homes were destroyed. Many more homes will take substantial work before people can return to live in them. Carlson believes it will take months, if not years, for Marshalltown to rebuild.

Some of the worst damage in Marshalltown came to the town’s courthouse and the brick buildings in the town square. In recent years officials and property owners had slowly worked to revamp the buildings, many of which are now destroyed. Jenny Etter, executive director of the Marshalltown Central Business District, estimates that the city had spent $50 million in building renovations since 2002.

A dozen or more tornadoes hit central Iowa last Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The two biggest tornadoes, both rated EF-3, hit Marshalltown and Pella, with peak winds of 144 mph.

SBDR chaplains are also in Marshalltown to provide support and counsel to residents impacted by the tornado. Sam Porter, the North American Mission Board’s executive director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, prays the SBDR response will provide volunteers opportunities to share the Gospel.

“[The] number one goal with disaster relief is to earn the right to share the Gospel,” Porter said. “We work with those impacted. We treat them with respect. We pray with them. When they ask the question, ‘What makes you do this for no charge?’ that’s when you’ve earned the right to share the Gospel.”

The Marshalltown tornado comes on the heels of the SBDR response to flooding in Des Moines, Iowa, where teams wrapped up work last week. Eight people came to faith last week during SBDR efforts in the capital city, Carlson said.

Porter and Carlson urge Southern Baptists to pray for Marshalltown and the rest of Central Iowa.

“Pray for all the people who live here,” Carlson said. “A lot of them lost their homes. They lost their cars. They lost their job. There is a lot of a need here.”

Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.,

Published March 19, 2019