Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Storm You Never Want To See

Baptists responding to historic tornado outbreak

By Staff
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers in Alabama are assisting emergency response personnel in an effort to find survivors as the death toll from Wednesday’s devastating tornados continues to rise. By mid-Thursday those dead in Alabama had climbed to 162 and a total of 251 were counted dead across a six Southern states. Officials called it the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes in nearly 40 years.

“Right now, our volunteers have been asked to assist in search and rescue efforts,” said Mel Johnson, director of disaster relief for the Alabama Baptist Convention. “That’s a first for us.”

Johnson was one of about a dozen Baptist state convention disaster relief leaders who participated in a Thursday morning conference call coordinated by the North American Mission Board. State representatives shared about damage in their states while others offered resources and volunteers when needed.

“Entire communities disappeared,” Johnson said. “Many hospitals, police departments, local fire departments all sustained damage. At one campsite campers were picked up and swept into a lake.

“We have teams that started responding yesterday,” Johnson said. “They have had to cut their way into these areas.”

Johnson said after search and rescue, their top priority is establishing several feeding sites near large population centers so they can begin serving hot meals to victims.

SBDR leaders in Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia also reported damage from Wednesday’s outbreak. As many as a million people are without power in Alabama alone, making meal distribution a high priority.

“This is the storm you never want to see,” said Mickey Caison, NAMB’s Disaster Relief coordinator. “Our top priority is to help people just get through the next few days and weeks. After that, Southern Baptists will be called upon to help with the longer-term effort to remove debris and help victims rebuild.”

The tornados came as Southern Baptists volunteers were also in the midst of responding to floods in Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas as well as earlier deadly tornadoes in North Carolina.

NAMB president Kevin Ezell called on Southern Baptists to pray “but I would also like to ask every Southern Baptist and every church to donate to our disaster relief efforts.” Ezell said people can give at to a specially designated fund for tornado and flood victims that will ensure that 100 percent of donations go directly to help disaster victims.

“God has blessed Southern Baptists with more trained disaster relief volunteers and more disaster relief units than any other ministry or organization,” Ezell said. “Now is a time to respond generously with our resources and our services to meet physical and spiritual needs.”

To donate to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts visit and click “donate now.” You can also view and download a video message from Kevin Ezell about how Southern Baptists are responding to tornado and flood victims.

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