Gatlinburg Fire Update

161212gatlinburgI want to thank everyone for their prayers, giving, patience and willingness to serve those affected by the fires.  I also want to thank those groups who went and assisted after the tornados struck different parts of the state.  That did not get as much press because of the situation in Gatlinburg, but I am very grateful for the teams that responded.

The area around Gatlinburg was kept mostly closed off to the public until last Friday.  For more than the first week, first responders were the only ones let in and after that only home and business owners.  Lest you think your Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief personnel have not been doing anything during this time, here is a brief update on what has been happening… Continue reading

Hurricane Matthew Response Update

Image: NOAA.gov

Image: NOAA.gov

There is a reason why we try and teach fluidity in the Introduction to Disaster Relief class and this week has been an example of that!

At this writing, Hurricane Matthew is still pouring rain on the states of South and North Carolina. It was slower in arriving in Florida and moving up the coast than originally thought. Then when it hit, it stayed offshore as it moved up the coast. As a result, they are discovering that the damage in Florida was not as great as thought. Originally they had asked 9 kitchen units to prepare to respond and TN was one of these kitchens. After almost a week of planning and preparation, we received word late yesterday that we would not be needed for response in Florida but, they wanted to keep us on standby to possibly respond in one of the other affected states. Continue reading

DR Teams Sent to Florida; Others Will Be Needed in Hurricane’s Aftermath

Baptist and Reflector

Photo: NOAA.gov

Photo: NOAA.gov

BRENTWOOD — Tennessee Baptists have been asked to respond in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti on Oct. 4, causing massive destruction before hitting Cuba later that night. The damage in Cuba was not as extensive as first expected but some areas were hard hit.

In Haiti, at least 478 deaths have been attributed to the massive storm and the number is expected to rise. Continue reading

‘A Lot Of Humanity Is Suffering’ — DR Volunteer

By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector

Kay Thompson of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church, Hermitage, in metropolitan Nashville, prepares to do some laundry in the shower/laundry unit of the church in Gonzalez, La. Thompson is part of the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief effort to help flood victims in Louisiana.

Kay Thompson of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church, Hermitage, in metropolitan Nashville, prepares to do some laundry in the shower/laundry unit of the church in Gonzalez, La. Thompson is part of the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief effort to help flood victims in Louisiana.

MOUNT JULIET — “A lot of humanity is suffering because so many people are without their homes,” said Don Kohanski, disaster relief director of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church, Hermitage, who has served recently in Gonzalez, La., leading a shower/laundry operation.

“What we are doing is being backup for the teams who are really doing the work and helping the public. … We’re trying to help the people, giving them some kind of relief.”

The shower/laundry unit and its volunteers are set up at First Baptist Church, Gonzalez. The unit began serving Aug. 19.

Kohanski described seeing neighborhoods of houses in Gonzalez with almost everything that was in the house pulled out and placed on the street including insulation and drywall. He could see water lines on houses showing how high the water had been. Though most of the flood waters are down, he heard of residents who still had water, up to four feet, in their houses. Gonzalez is located about 25 miles southeast of Baton Rouge. Continue reading

Tennessee Baptists Prepare To Help In Louisiana

Photo: NOAA.gov

Photo: NOAA.gov

Slow-moving storms are causing record flooding and significant damage as they move across South Louisiana. Thousands of residents have evacuated, at least three people have died and there is significant property damage and loss to more than 50,000 homes. At least three interstates are closed by the flooding of the Amite River and much of Louisiana State University’s campus is covered by water.

The rising water is the result of more than 27 inches of rainfall over a 36-hour period near the city of Baker, just northeast of Baton Rouge. Continue reading

FORMER TBC STAFFER MIKE OVERCASH DIES

By Lonnie Wilkey, Editor
Baptist and Reflector

Mike Overcash

Mike Overcash

BRENTWOOD – Retired Tennessee Baptist Convention staff member and long-time disaster relief volunteer Mike Overcash died June 8 following an apparent heart attack.

Overcash, 80, a former employee of LifeWay Christian Resources who served several Tennessee Baptist churches as minister of music, was on the staff of the TBC from 1995-2001 as computer services specialist and as interim director of Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief in 2015. Continue reading

DR Teams Called Out

BRENTWOOD — Ten­ne­ssee  Bap­tist  Disaster  Re­­­lief volunteers have been asked to respond in the wake of deadly storms and flooding that occurred across the nation during the Christmas holidays.

As of Jan. 4, 11 states had Southern Baptist Disaster Relief vol­unteers serving at min­­is­try sites in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisian­a, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.

“The lives of so many families and communities are forever changed,” observed Mickey Caison, interim executive director of SBDR.

Wes   Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Con­vention, reported that a Tennessee team led by Gary Cate of Knox County Baptist Association served last week at First Baptist Church in Yukon, Okla., helping cut up downed trees.

Jones said Missouri Baptists have asked for mud out teams to assist residents affected by flooding in the state.

He noted three teams were scheduled to leave over the weekend to travel to Elmore, Mo. In addition, five groups of assessors are traveling to Missouri to assist, Jones added.

For more information about volunteer opportunities, call 615-371-7927.

Contributions Accepted for Dec. 2015 TN Storms Recovery

On December 23, storms producing tornadoes and straight-line winds roared across our state.  In the path of these Christmas season storms, lives were lost, homes, businesses and property were destroyed. Governor Haslam has declared a state of emergency.  And your TBC Disaster Relief staff, led by Wes Jones, has been preparing to respond.

A fund has been set up for the response to the December 2015 storms in Tennessee. Please visit our Contributions page to give by credit or debit card. There is also information for mailing in a payment.

Our host of DR Volunteers will be still responding with help and hope long after the news crews have moved on to the next story.

Continue to pray for those affected by the storms as well those assisting in the recovery.

DR Volunteers Serve Tornado Victims

150817tornado

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.