Southern Baptists respond to California quakes

By Brandon Elrod

(RIDGECREST, Calif.)—A group of local, church volunteers had finished a day of cleaning up and repairing damage to Immanuel Baptist Church, Ridgecrest, Calif. following a 6.4 earthquake on July 4. The next night, the 7.1 earthquake undid their hard work and then some.

“I was at home with my wife for the 7.1,” said Bill Logan, pastor of Immanuel Baptist. “There was a 5.0 that happened first. When it hit, we wanted to be out of the house. Then, about three minutes later, the seven hit, and all our neighbors were screaming.”

Logan has lived in Southern California for more than thirty years and experienced several earthquakes over his lifetime, “but nothing like what occurred Thursday and Friday,” he said.

The ceiling came down across several areas around the church, littering floors with ceiling tiles, insulation and exposing parts of the HVAC system. The damage forced the church to cancel Sunday services, but Logan said his was the only Southern Baptist church in the area that had to do so.

After enduring two earthquakes—one July 4 followed by a second July 5—Immanuel Baptist Church, Ridgecrest, Calif., needed to cancel Sunday services as parts of the ceiling came down throughout the church building. Volunteers from the church had cleaned up much of the damage from the July 4 earthquake only to have their efforts erased by the second quake, which hit that evening. Photo courtesy of Immanuel Baptist, Ridgecrest.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers have visited Ridgecrest to assess the needs, and a team plans to arrive to provide chaplaincy and counseling services to those affected. The tremors created a sense of dread for some residents.

“After the first quake hit, experts were saying there was an 8 percent chance of one bigger than that striking,” said Mike Bivins, SBDR director for California Baptists. “Well, the bigger quake did come, and experts again said there was a 5 percent chance that an even bigger quake could occur. So, people are worried.”

A California Baptist SBDR team will arrive Tuesday (July 9) and stay with the church to help with repairs to the church as well as assist any others in the church’s neighborhood.

“We have made contact with our Southern Baptist churches,” reported Bivins, “and we’re going to be supporting and resourcing them as disaster relief.”

Ridgecrest police have not reported any fatalities. Damage has been relatively minor for an earthquake of such magnitude, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other seismologists estimated that a total of more than 3,000 earthquakes followed the Independence Day quake.

While on the phone Monday morning (July 8) about receiving disaster relief assistance, Logan felt earthquake, guessing it was likely a 4.0 on the Richter scale.

“The main issue here is psychological,” Logan said.

The earthquakes emanated roughly ten miles northeast of the small town and rattled much of Southern California, Nevada and Arizona. Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency the following day in Ridgecrest and San Bernardino County.

Newsom called the quakes a “wake-up call for the rest of [his] state and other parts of the nation” when speaking with the press, advising individuals to take precautions and be prepared.

Some residents of Trona, Calif., in San Bernardino County were being transported to Ridgecrest as the town of about 2,500 people experienced more extensive damage.

Bivins stated that California Baptist SBDR teams are ready to assist further should they be needed.

Southern Baptist response to flooding, migrant influx continues

After a flood struck the Texas Rio Grande Valley nearly two weeks ago, Southern Baptists with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and Texas Baptist Men (TBM) have been active in the area, providing food for survivors and clearing out mud from flooded homes.

SBTC and TBM units also continue their efforts to assist with the immigration influx by providing feeding and shower units to churches near the Texas border.

Brandon Elrod 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 July 8, 2019