In early August, record-setting rainfall caused Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear to declare a state of emergency. He tweeted, “The flooding that has hit Eastern Kentucky is absolutely devastating . . . helping our families rebuild and recover is going to be a long, hard process.”
The Kentucky Army National Guard deployed crisis-trained SBC chaplains to Floyd County to provide emotional and spiritual support.
Other SBC chaplains and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteer chaplains also made their way to the site of the crisis, where they met up with Kentucky Air Guard Chaplain Capt. James Detwiler who also serves with the Air Guard’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team (FSRT).
Even though he can’t describe the amount of tangible and intangible devastation to someone who hasn’t seen it for themselves, Captain James Detwiler can describe the impact SBC Disaster Relief had on the community.
“I saw firsthand the rapid response from SBDR, engagement with local churches, much-needed resources—physical and spiritual care,” said Detwiler. “In particular, one group had set up a shelter at a local church for several displaced individuals who had lost practically everything. The volunteers were happy to serve in any way they could, truly demonstrating the love of God.”
They all came together to rescue hundreds of people, some from homes entirely underwater. Lt. Col. Bill Draper, Kentucky National Guard Deputy State Chaplain, told the local news, “In a tragic event of this scale, we have to come together and support one another, be that Army, Air, neighbor, local agencies. We wanted to come here to see our service members and assure them. Whatever they need, we are here, and we are not going anywhere.”
As the temperatures continued to soar across the flood-hit region and power outages remained widespread days after the flooding, SBC chaplains and SBDR chaplains continued to assist and help meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those impacted by the flooding.
SBDR chaplain Richard Kuenzinger, who had previously responded to flood events in West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Nebraska, said he had never seen this level of damage in such a small area.
“Disaster Relief is the greatest mission activity in North America, and it is an opportunity for pastors and church leaders to meet people at the point of their greatest need,” he said. “The people are happy to see you! No tragic event occurs in a vacuum. Everyone is hurting and struggling with something in their life. When tragedy strikes, it magnifies the daily struggle. It is at this point that the ministry of presence is so valuable. However, how can they hear if no one is sent?”
The floods left 37 people dead and caused heavy damage across 13 countries. Families, Disaster Relief volunteers, SBC chaplains and rescue workers continue to work as they bring help and hope to those impacted by the flood.
Lt. Col. Bill Draper said it best. “I am extremely thankful God allowed me to serve my home state and fellow Kentuckians at such a critical moment. While tasked to provide support, care and encouragement, I was greatly blessed, often by residents who, despite the extreme loss, truly embodied faith, hope and love.”
Send Relief and SBDR have joined together to meet critical needs by providing food, water, flood clean up assistance, laundry and shower services in Eastern Kentucky.
Please give to the Eastern Kentucky Flood fund now to help survivors in desperate need with flood relief supplies and emergency meals.
Published September 21, 2022