So. Baptists respond to Midwest tornadoes, flooding

By Tobin Perry

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. (BP) — Just days after devastating storms hit the Midwest earlier this week, Southern Baptists have mobilized to help homeowners and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the impacted areas.

On Monday and Tuesday (May 20-21), a violent storm system swept through the central United States producing 97 tornadoes and leaving at least eight dead. The storms have led to extensive flooding throughout the region, too.

A Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer from the Spring River Baptist Association of nearby Joplin, Mo., removes tree debris from the property of a Carl’s Junction, Mo., homeowner. Disaster relief volunteers are active in multiple states, sharing practical help and the love of Christ in communities impacted by a slew of tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest this week. Photo provided by Sam Porter/NAMB

Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief teams are set up in the state’s capital, Jefferson City, and Carl’s Junction. Carl’s Junction, near the Oklahoma and Missouri border, was hit Wednesday night (May 22) when a tornado started southwest of town and moved northeast through Carl Junction, Oronogo and Golden City.

Carl’s Junction is about 4 miles north of Joplin, Mo. The storm came eight years to the day after an EF5-rated tornado hit Joplin killing 158 people.

“What happened [in Carl’s Junction] is a tornado came in and over a hill and hit a very populated area,” said Ron Crow, pastor of First Baptist Church of Diamond, and a part of the Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief team ministering in the area.

“It wasn’t a widespread area, but it was very populated. There were a lot of mature trees. It didn’t do tons of structural damage, although it did some, but it did a lot of tree damage, a lot of limbs everywhere.”

Crow, who is the incident commander, and others on the Missouri Baptist chainsaw teams are helping impacted homeowners remove trees and other debris from properties. When they have the opportunity, they are also sharing the Gospel.

Crow and his team from the Spring River Baptist Association in Joplin were able to help the principal of the school where his wife works remove some large trees that were down in the yard. After their help, the principal sent a grateful text message: “Oh my! There are no words for what a blessing your crew was to the Shelleys today. That’s something you truly have to see in action to understand. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You were truly the hands and feet of Jesus today.”

Crow says that other homeowners have been similarly appreciative of Southern Baptists’ ministry in the area.

Another Missouri Baptist chainsaw team is serving in Jefferson City, helping homeowners remove debris and fallen trees.

“It’s a 19-mile long stretch of damage and three-quarters of a mile wide,” said Gaylon Moss, the director of Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief. “But it also contains a number of commercial and industrial properties. Some of the houses we’ve seen have been completely destroyed and others just have some tree damage, no structural damage. It really runs the gamut as far as types of damage in this area.”

Moss says Missouri Baptists hope to point people to Jesus through their response to the tornadoes. He notes an interaction yesterday between a volunteer and a homeowner who was surprised to see help so quickly.

“Wow! You’re Christians and do that?” the man told the volunteer.

Moss says that interaction illustrates their desire to move people one step closer to Jesus through their ministry.

“For some people, that means, ‘Wow, there’s a God!’ For others, it’s praying to receive Christ. You’re always trying to move people forward,” Moss said. “There are little small seeds that get planted all along the way, and you never know what will come from it.”

Over the last 36 hours, 36 tornadoes have hit Oklahoma, which has led to record flooding throughout the state and numerous evacuations, particularly around the Tulsa metro area.

Don Williams, the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief Director, says Oklahoma Baptists have mobilized chainsaw teams to a number of locations throughout the state, including Peggs, Leach, Jay, and North Tulsa.

“God can make something good out of a disaster,” Williams said. “Southern Baptists are known for working through disaster to be he hands and feet of Jesus. We have a great opportunity to do that in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas at this moment.”

Williams added that Oklahoma has already contacted the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Arkansas Baptists about helping with these recovery efforts. He expects the efforts to continue throughout the summer.

Sam Porter, the national director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, says there will be additional needs in southeast Kansas.

“They are going to need a lot of help,” Porter said. So any teams, even high school or college teams, that would like to go and help, they really need it. It’s flooded all the way from the Kansas City border down to the Oklahoma border and all down southeast Kansas along the Missouri border.”

The North American Mission Board is responsible for coordinating national responses by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, which is one of the three largest providers of disaster relief volunteers in the United States.

NAMB utilizes partnerships with 42 Baptist conventions that operate in all 50 states to gather volunteers and respond to disasters, providing hot meals, chainsaw and mud-out relief work and other services.

Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.
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 May 28, 2019