Ten Years After Hurricane Katrina

NAMB: Ten Years After Hurricane Katrina

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina slammed into Southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi coast. The deadly storm became the most expensive natural disaster in United States history. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were among the first to respond to the need. This video looks back at how they served and how the lessons learned still shape Southern Baptist relief efforts today.



DR Volunteers Serve Tornado Victims


Roscoe England of Sevier Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville, cuts a damaged tree in the Sweetwater/Tellico Plains area.

from the Baptist & Reflector:

SWEETWATER — As Kenny Witt, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer of Madisonville, drove down a rural road near Sweetwater by homes and property, he saw more trees damaged by the tornado and storms which struck Monroe County July 14. He stopped at a house which had downed trees but didn’t find anyone home. Witt went further down the road to the next house and found the owner of the previous house was there staying with her mother-in-law because she was expecting a baby soon.

The lady quickly accepted the help Witt offered, signing the required forms.

The next day Lou Mulsand of Knoxville and a team of DR volunteers from Sevier Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville, arrived at the lady’s house. Mulsand and Tom Freels of Sevier Heights went to introduce themselves and learned more of her story.

She was scheduled to have a baby the next day but couldn’t ride in her car to the hospital because a tree — “a four footer,” according to Mulsand, — blocked the driveway.

Freels told Mulsand and Witt that they had to get that driveway opened up that day so she could get to the hospital tomorrow.

A team of about eight volunteers did just that, the men reported.

The volunteers working two days later learned that the lady had delivered a son and both were well.

“The timing just worked out perfectly on that,” said Witt.

Mulsand noted, “It’s not a coincidence that we go to certain homes.”

About 26 Baptist DR workers have served beginning July 16 in the Sweetwater and Tellico Plains area where they found and completed about 50 jobs. The work is still continuing.

The storm did damage in an area about 20 miles long, stretching from the west side of Tellico Plains to the east side of Sweetwater.

Mulsand, director of disaster relief for Knox County Baptist Association, whose crews worked in the area seven days as of Aug. 5 and planned to return with a team on Aug. 8, said they also saw a man rededicate his life to Christ and a lot of older ladies helped. Many of the ladies would say upon meeting the DR workers that God had answered their prayers, he added.

Witt said besides helping the expectant lady another incident stood out to him. He was visiting with a homeowner they were helping. The man looked at all the damage on his property and said, “Kenny, you think you’ve seen the power of God when you look at all of this, but you really see the power of God when you see neighbors helping neighbors.”

Finally, Witt said they helped a family whose home was basically destroyed by trees falling on it so they had moved in with their son. In the area three or four homes were destroyed by the storm. The DR workers removed a tree to allow them to access items from their house.

Two groups of DR volunteers stayed and worked for five days — from Woodland Baptist Church, Brownsville, and Holston Baptist Association, based in Johnson City. They were housed by Fairview Baptist Church, Sweetwater. Tony Rutherford, director of missions, Sweetwater Baptist Association, helped make these arrangements as well as delivering lunch and water provided by the association and individuals to volunteers.

DR workers also served from Sweetwater Association; Hamilton County Baptist Association, based in Chattanooga; Knox County Association; and Nolachucky Baptist Association, based in Morristown.

Mulsand said he was amazed at the work ethic of the volunteers who worked all day, only stopping to move to another job, and despite heat and humidity that “was just brutal.”

God also provided people who were very skilled on the equipment, said Mulsand. For instance, Arlin Phillips of First Baptist Church, Tellico Plains, was very good because he was in the logging business nearly all of his life.

No federal government aid is available to residents because the tornado was not ruled to be bad enough, reported Rutherford.

All of the damage on private property is up to the homeowners to repair and the work is very expensive, said Rutherford.

“We’re just really grateful and our community is just really grateful for all the work that has been done. The people here needed help,” he stated.

TBC Names New Disaster Relief Leader

Wes Jones

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.— The Executive Board Ministry Staff of the Tennessee Baptist Convention has named a long-time disaster relief and ministry veteran to lead its state disaster relief effort. The appointment culminates a nearly one-year national search process.

Wesley A. Jones, a former state disaster relief leader in Iowa and former International Mission Board missionary in Guatemala, was chosen to fill the role of Disaster Relief Specialist. The announcement of Jones’ hiring comes after disaster relief veteran, David Acres, retired last September. Jones is scheduled to be in his role with the TBC Sept. 1, 2015. Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief has been led by interim leader and retired TBC employee, Mike Overcash, since Acre’s retirement.

“We are very excited to have Wes joining our team and serving Tennessee Baptists in this role,” said Randy C. Davis, executive director/treasurer of the Executive Board ministries. “He brings a great deal of experience to the position. Our Tennessee Baptist disaster relief volunteers are a dedicated group of individuals who love to both serve and share the gospel. We wanted to find someone who shared that same passion, and we believe Wes does.”

Jones is a native of Virginia and graduated from John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark. He also received his Master’s of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kan. He has served as a pastor and he, and wife, Pam, served overseas as church planters with the IMB in Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala. Since 2002, Jones has been a Director of Missions and most recently held the position of Missional Church Planting Catalyst. He became heavily involved in disaster relief while in Iowa, earning certifications in National Incident Command Training (White Hat), S.P.H.E.R.E. (trained through Baptist Global Response), Chaplain Training, National Incident Management System Training (100, 200, 700, 800 A/B), Unit Supervisor Training (Blue Hat), SBDR Disaster Assessment Training, Introduction to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (Yellow Hat), Chainsaw Training and Chainsaw Safety Training.

Since 2013, Jones has been a member of the National Disaster Relief Steering Committee of the North American Mission Board and also a member of NAMB’s National Incident Command Team since 2006.

“It is an honor to be selected to serve as the Disaster Relief Specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention,” Jones said. “Nobody ever wants to see a disaster hit, but it is good to know that when they do, Southern Baptists are there to respond. I am excited to see what God will continue to do through the continued work of Tennessee Disaster Relief volunteers.”


DR Trailer Stolen in Oklahoma, Found

trailer_stolen_returnedfrom the Baptist and Reflector

LAWTON, Okla. — A trailer being used by a Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief team serving here June 23 was stolen and then found unharmed and intact that evening. The reporting of KSWO-TV Channel 7 and a lot of prayers were the keys to the recovery, reported Doyle Pittman, director of the team.

The trailer was stolen from First Baptist Church West in Lawton overnight as the team slept at the church. Thankfully a viewer of the reporting by the TV station saw the trailer which was picked up by the team.
Pittman, a member of Red Bank Baptist Church, Red Bank, near Chattanooga, said the nine-member Tennessee team went ahead and worked yesterday after making the discovery. Thankfully they were able to use equipment from Oklahoma already at the church. Pittman also is DR director for Hamilton County Baptist Association, based in Chattanooga.

The team was providing flood recovery to residents.

The trailer, owned by Red Bank Baptist, was insured but it was filled with equipment including equipment owned by team members. Pittman estimated everything was worth about $12,000.

“This was totally out of our control and we just had to trust God to give it (the trailer) back to us,” said Pittman.

“Everyone had a good attitude about it and didn’t get angry. We were able to work and even accomplish two jobs.”

“Everyone … was surprised at and shocked that the Lord did this. Of course, we had many people praying and God answered those prayers,” said Pittman.

The team plans to return to Tennessee June 28.

DR Teams Needed to Work in Nepal

Help_Nepal_red_markerfrom the Baptist & Reflector:

BRENTWOOD — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is looking for volunteers to serve with Baptist Global Response in Nepal.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the country in late April, killing thousands of people. Millions of people were affected and hundreds of thousands of homes were either demolished or rendered uninhabitable.

Baptist Global Response was on site within 48 hours and is now looking at a long-term response.

BGR cautions potential volunteers that the “workplace environment will be very rugged. There is limited infrastructure due to the widespread disaster and intensity of the disaster. Volunteers will need to be in excellent physical condition to join a team.”

According to BGR, projects will be mostly general labor oriented and will include, but not be limited to, housing construction, water systems, debris removal, latrine construction, institution recovery construction, medical clinics, and other needs as found by assessment teams.

Mike Overcash, interim Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief director, said interested teams need to contact the North American Mission Board directly at sbdr_logistics@namb.net.

He noted two teams from East Tennessee have expressed an interest in responding to the needs in Nepal and that he expects additional teams to follow suit.

The Tennessee Baptist Convention is still accepting cash donations to help send volunteers to Nepal, Overcash said.
Contributions can be made online at www.tnbaptist.org/pymt/dr2015nepal.htm or by check designated “Nepal” and mailed to Tennessee Baptist Convention, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, TN 37024.

TBC Disaster Relief Teams on Standby For Nepal; Contributions Accepted

Residents drive by some of the destruction in Kathmandu caused by an earthquake that struck the country April 25, killing more than 5,000 people and injuring thousands of others. -IMB photo

Residents drive by some of the destruction in Kathmandu caused by an earthquake that struck the country April 25, killing more than 5,000 people and injuring thousands of others. -IMB photo

Compiled by Baptist and Reflector

BRENTWOOD – Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief is gearing up to respond to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25.

Nepal is a small country located between India and China and is the home of Mount Everest. Most of Nepal’s nearly 30 million people are Hindu.

Tennessee Baptists have inquired about what they can to do help the devastated country where the death toll has surpassed 5,000 people with more than 11,000 injured, according to Mike Overcash, interim DR director for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The death toll continues to rise as rescue efforts expand from the capital city of Kathmandu to outlying areas, Baptist Press reported.

“The needs are extensive as of now,” Overcash said. “As is so often the case, Southern Baptists – and Tennessee Baptists – are rising to the occasion to alleviate suffering and to share the light of the gospel,” he continued.

Many relief teams have already been activated and the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s disaster relief teams are on standby to send aid and teams in June, Overcash added.

“Any contributions you make through the TBC will support these relief teams, and any funds not used to support Tennessee’s response will be forwarded to Baptist Global Response,” Overcash said.

Contributions can be made online at http://www.tnbaptist.org/pymt/dr2015nepal.htm or by check designated “Nepal” and mailed to Tennessee Baptist Convention, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, TN 37024-0728.

Top 10 Reasons to Be Trained

top_ten_chalkboardReproduced with permission from Kentucky Baptist Convention.

1. Training prepares us in our understanding of disasters and the needs that arise in times of disaster.

2. Training enables us to respond in appropriate and effective ways in times of disaster.

3. Training prepares us to understand our role as part of a disaster team.

4. Training enables us to sharpen our abilities to be most effective as we serve, in order to be an asset, not a hindrance, in the response.

5. Training helps us to understand hazards and safety concerns in disaster areas.

6. Training prepares us to understand in a deeper way some of the trauma of disaster victims that we might be able to offer appropriate compassion.

7. Training prepares the heart for ministry by increasing awareness of the need and different opportunities to minister.

8. Training prepares the hands to be ready to serve effectively.

9. Training prepares the head by giving knowledge to increase effectiveness.

10. But the greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do and to achieve the best requires discipline, effort, and knowledge. Trainings are an opportunity to grow as Believers so that when God calls we are ready.

See Disaster Relief Training Opportunities.

Helping Tennesseans Thaw Out

By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist and Reflector

BRENTWOOD — Some things just can’t be sugarcoated — especially disaster relief work in sub-freezing temperatures.

“There’s no glamour in working outside in the cold with snow over your ankles,” acknowledged Mike Overcash, interim Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief director.

Cold weather poses an entirely different set of issues to deal with as compared to traditional disaster responses that take place from the spring through the fall during the hurricane and tornado seasons, he said.

“Typically we have to deal with the heat, not the cold.”

In late February and early March, however, it was the cold (along with a lot of snow and ice) that Tennessee volunteers braved to help hundreds of residents across the state affected by ice and snow storms in late February.

Numerous volunteer teams from churches and associations all across the state rallied to clear trees from roads and homes in Middle and East Tennessee.

In some cases, the work done by the volunteers enabled local electric companies to get into the area so they could restore electricity to the thousands of homes that lost power due to the ice storm.

Because of the number of residents statewide who were affected, cleanup teams stayed busy through the early days of March to minister and meet needs, Overcash said.

Ice is a problem, acknowledged volunteer Dale Ledbetter, director of missions for Maury Baptist Association, based in Columbia. Ledbetter was part of a five-member team that served recently near Clarkrange.

Overcash noted that often volunteers have to knock ice off the limbs before they can be cut with a chain saw.

Ledbetter added that portions of the limbs freeze and stick to the ground making it hard to remove the limbs once they are cut.

But problems in cold weather go far beyond that, volunteers agree.

Jim Ramey, disaster relief director for Sullivan Baptist Association, based in Kingsport, noted that cold weather especially wreaks havoc on shower trailers and laundry units.

Water supply and other lines will freeze if they are outside, Ramey said. “These units need to be in a heated, controlled environment,” he stressed.

The weather is a determining factor in what we can and can’t do in a cold weather response, Ramey continued.

“If we can have a controlled environment, we can take care of anybody, anywhere,” said Ramey, a member of Sullivan Baptist Church in Kingsport.

If teams are not careful in transporting and monitoring where shower and laundry units will be set up, “you can create more problems than you can cure on the field,” Ramey said. Damaged equipment ultimately must be repaired, he added.

Carolyn Watson, a member of Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, and disaster relief director for Cumberland Baptist Association, based in Clarksville, is brutally honest about her assessment of cold weather DR responses.

“The only good thing about cold weather disaster relief is that we are helping people in need,” she said.

“Cold weather response is different because it doesn’t matter how many layers of clothing you wear, you can’t get warm,” Watson continued.

There are dangers to working in cold weather, she observed, from getting cold and wet and not even realizing it to slipping on ice.

But cold weather response is needed because many times people who are without electricity can’t have it repaired until roads are cleared of trees, Watson said. “We can’t say no when it’s too cold because people will die without electricity,” she stressed.

Overcash agreed that cold weather can’t prevent disaster relief volunteers from meeting needs.

“That’s what disaster relief is all about — sharing Christ in crisis,” he said.

He is especially grateful for the numerous volunteers who braved the elements in February and early March to assist fellow Tennesseans in need.

Government officials across the state even took notice.

David Purkey, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, thanked volunteers via an e-mail. “I don’t know what we would have done without you,” he wrote.

Download American Red Cross Disaster Apps

March is American Red Cross Month. Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with some of the disaster preparedness tools the Red Cross offers, including a variety of mobile applications (apps). The free apps provide alerts for weather hazards, first aid, shelter, pet first aid, and more.

As the winter weather hazards come to an end, you can use the weather-related apps to prepare for spring hazards, such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

Features of the tornado app include:

  • An audible siren that automatically sounds when the app is closed if a tornado warning is issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA);
  • A notification when the warning expires; and
  • Instructions on what to do if cell phone towers and other communication are down.
    Features of the hurricane app include:
  • One touch “I’m safe” messaging that users can share with family members via social media outlets;
  • Location-based NOAA weather alerts; and
  • Checklists for creating a family emergency plan.

The Red Cross also offers a mobile application that engages children in disaster preparedness in a fun, exciting way. The “Monster Guard” app uses an interactive game to show kids how to stay safe when responding to emergencies at home.

Take action today! Download these apps to your tablet or smartphone using the Apple App Store or Android Google Play. Doing so counts as one of the ten ways to participate in America’s PrepareAthon!, so be sure to register your actions on the campaign website.