Wednesday
Apr302014

Ark. disaster relief volunteers prepare 4,300 meals for tornado victims

Matt Ramsey
Arkansas Baptist State Convention 

LITTLE ROCK – Since arriving in Vilonia two days ago volunteers with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention’s (ABSC) mobile mass feeding unit have prepared more than 4,300 hot meals for victims displaced by the killer tornado that devastated the community April 27.

The Red Cross is providing and distributing food while ABSC disaster relief volunteers are preparing the meals.

“The Arkansas Baptist State Convention disaster relief crews are diligently working in affected areas,” said Joe Garner, ABSC disaster relief director. “Our mass feeding unit is stationed in Vilonia and volunteers are preparing about 2,800 meals per day at the request of the Red Cross. We are continuing to partner with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. We will remain in the affected areas until the last person is helped.”

In addition to the feeding unit, eight teams of ABSC disaster relief recovery (chainsaw) volunteers are helping cut down trees and helping with clean up efforts in Vilonia, Mayflower and Little Rock. To date, the chainsaw volunteers have completed 30 jobs. An ABSC disaster relief mobile shower unit is also on site at the Beryl Baptist.

A total of 135 volunteers are currently part of ABSC disaster relief efforts in Vilonia, Mayflower and Little Rock. Online donations can be made to the ABSC disaster relief fund by going to www.absc.org and clicking on the “Donate Now” button. These donations go directly to the recovery efforts and victims affected by the storms.

ABSC leaders are partnering with Arkansans to collect “Buckets of Love,” consisting of a plastic five-gallon bucket packed with selected items. For more information on Buckets of Love go to www.absc.org and click the “Buckets of Love” button.

Matt Ramsey is the communications director for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Tuesday
Apr292014

Arkansas Baptists dig out following tornadoes; praise God in the storm

A house in Vilonia that was destroyed. Photo by Caleb Yarbrough

View of photo gallery of damage here.

A NUMBER of Southern Baptist congregations in Mayflower and Vilonia were impacted greatly during April 27 tornadoes and storms that ripped through Arkansas.

Fifteen people are confirmed dead as a result of tornados and storms across Arkansas, according to officials. The National Weather Service estimated the tornadoes had wind speeds of up to 165 mph during its 40-mile path of destruction across Central Arkansas.

An Arkansas Baptist feeding unit capable of producing 10,000 meals a day was deployed to Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia April 28. The church is located at 873 Main Street in Vilonia. As of Thursday, April 31, the unit from Calvary Baptist Association had prepared and served 4,500 meals.

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) is already providing monetary assistance to the pastors who lost their houses, and will be assisting the churches destroyed or damaged with recovery funds, said J.D. "Sonny" Tucker, ABSC executive director.

The Valley church, Vilonia, a Southern Baptist congregation, was completely destroyed by the tornado.

“The tornado took our entire facility. But our people hear me say every week that the Church is not a building.” said Rothacher, pastor of The Valley. “The Church is the followers and disciples of Jesus that are chasing God together.” 

RothacherRothacher said when he heard that a tornado was coming through Vilonia that his first thought was that The Valley would be able to minister to those in the community that would be affected by the storm. When a member of the church who works as a fireman in town called and told him the church’s building was destroyed Rothacher was surprised –but not concerned – about the building.

“Pray for Vilonia as a whole. I know some families that are hurting. Obviously we have had several casualties, one is too many but we had more than anyone expected. On top of that I know some families that have lost their house for the second time in three years. This is a very resilient community,” said Rothacher.

“Ultimately God is sovereign. He is working behind the scenes for our good. Even in times when we don’t see that.”

Matt Baxter, who serves as youth leader at The Valley, had his house destroyed by the tornado, as did Shane Cauthen, worship leader, who rented a house in Vilonia.

The remains of The Valley church in Vilonia. Photo by Caleb YarbroughA portion of the roof at Saltillo Heights Baptist Church in Vilonia was torn off, and the church received other damage to other buildings on the property. Church vans and the pastor’s truck were damaged. 

Rick Morrow, pastor of Saltillo Heights Baptist Church, relocated to Arkansas about six months ago from the Dallas area.

“Our main damage to our auditorium is the roof. We’ve got a lot of damage to the front of the church where the baptistery is located, and lot of the metal roof is torn off of it,” he said, adding, “the roof off of our nursery area was completely taken away and the whole back wall of the church is basically damaged. I don’t know if it is going to be able to be repaired or not.

“It kind of blew it off it’s foundation and kicked it out,” Morrow said. “It is kind of like it is just leaned up there now. It’s the whole back of the main church building." 

Additionally, the church’s multipurpose building used for basketball, fellowship gatherings and Sunday school was severely damaged.

“Basically, both ends got blew out,” he said. “I won’t know how bad until the insurance company gets out here. It was hit really bad.”

The pastor said a number of members’ homes were damaged or destroyed by the tornado. The church parsonage where he lives received roof damage as well.

“It’s heart wrenching to see what folks are going through and experiencing now,” said Morrow, adding that he and others have attempted to help members of the church “that we could find.”

“We are in that stage now that everything is in such a disarray now that folks are just trying to get their roofs and their fences back up to keep their cows in and get the insurance people out,” he said.

“People have been so gracious and so generous,” said Morrow. “People have been bringing around bottled water and stuff like that that has helped a lot of people out. It’s really been a blessing. It’s amazing to see people reach out and extend that hand of encouragement.”

Morrow added that eight members of the U.S. Air Force stationed at the Jacksonville Airbase came to help out. 

“They came out with their chainsaws. They worked in our yard and in our church’s yard from early yesterday morning (April 28) until late yesterday evening,” the pastor said. “And I mean they worked. There wasn’t any sitting around. They were hard-working gentlemen.

“It was a blessing to have our servicemen come.”

Morrow said he knows God ultimately has a greater purpose in the tragedy in Vilonia.  

“I know He has far greater plans than I can imagine or ever hope for, and that’s what I’m trusting in” he said.

“In my finite mind I see all of the loss and the way it has totally uprooted lives,” Morrow said. “As far as my wisdom and understanding goes, I couldn’t even begin to think about what God is going to do with this, but I know that He is faithful and that He knows. I am just going to lean on that understanding.”

Randy Norman (right), his wife, Veronica, and son, Riley, rode out the Mayflower tornado in a bathroom covered by a mattress.Randy Norman, pastor of Life Source Church in Mayflower, rode out the tornado in his home, which also served as the gathering place for his congregation. On the day the Arkansas Baptist News spoke to Norman he was actively searching for a new house to rent.

"'Cried out to God' takes on a whole new perspective and meaning after coming like this," said Norman, adding that he, his wife, Veronica, and son, Riley, huddled in a bathroom covered by a bed mattress as the storm ravaged his house.

"I've always wondered ... people say they believe in God, but do they really? I ask, 'What would they do when put to the test?'" said the pastor, adding that LifeSource church moved from Jacksonville in an effort to reach unreached people with gospel and that he is convinced more than ever that it was the right thing to do.

"In the middle of that storm God showed me that He was with me," said Norman. "I know He is with me and my faith is stronger than I thought it was."

He added, "(It's) making me more resolute in my call."

The house of Wade Lentz, pastor of Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia, was completely destroyed in this year’s tornado after being damaged heavily in the 2011 tornado that hit the area. Lentz has only been pastor of the church for about six months. 

Lentz told media at the scene that after hearing warnings of the upcoming storm, he was at first complacent that the Vilonia area could be hit twice in three years.

His wife, Amanda, convinced him otherwise and they left for his parent’s house before the tornado swept the Lentz house off of its foundation.

“We lived through this once before, and it was the same roar then,” Lentz told NBC News. “We went back to check out my house and I saw right away that we didn’t have a house.”

Volunteers in Vilonia stage awaiting assignments. Photo by Caleb YarbroughThe pastor’s Chevy Silverado was turned upside down on its roof, as was the family’s Toyota Corolla. Like the Lentz house, both cars were completely destroyed.

“We don’t understand why the Lord has allowed us to go through this again, but I also know that our God does not make any mistakes,” Lentz told NBC News.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Arkansas and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, tornadoes and flooding. 

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

In addition to the feeding unit from Calvary Baptist Association preparing meals in Vilonia, a Geyer Springs First Baptist Church shower unit is located in Vilonia, along with chainsaw crews from Union Valley Baptist Church, Beebe the Arkansas Valley Baptist Association and the Bartholomew Baptist Association. Chainsaw crews from Faulkner Baptist Association, Balboa Baptist Church, Hot Springs Village, Central Baptist Association and the Arkansas River Valley Baptist Association are serving in Mayflower. Another chainsaw team from The Church at Rock Creek is serving in west Little Rock.

Arkansans seeking to assist with recovery efforts may make donations to the ABSC disaster relief fund by visiting www.absc.org and clicking on the “Donate Now” button. Donations will go directly to the recovery efforts and victims affected by the storms.

ABSC leaders are partnering with Arkansans to collect “Buckets of Love,” consisting of a plastic five-gallon bucket packed with selected items, for distribution to victims of the tornadoes. Those wishing to contribute to Buckets of Love may visit the ABSC Web site at www.absc.org and click on the “Buckets of Love” button, for more information. The collection point is at Central Baptist Church, Conway, and will continue until Friday, May 2.

Compiled by the ABN staff and additional media reports.

Monday
Apr282014

Arkansas Baptist disaster relief feeding unit deployed to Vilonia

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas chapter of the American Red Cross has asked the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) to deploy its mobile, mass feeding unit to Vilonia, to assist with ministering to victims displaced by a massive tornado that devastated the community April 27. The feeding unit will provide up to 10,000 hot meals per day. The Red Cross will provide the food and ABSC volunteers will be preparing meals.

Disaster relief volunteers with the Calvary Baptist Association serve in Vilonia. As of April 29, about 1,500 meals have been prepared by the volunteers, according to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.The feeding unit from Calvary Baptist Association will be located at Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia. It will be in place later today, April 28, and begin serving meals this evening. The church is located at 873 Main Street in Vilonia.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected by the storms,” said J.D. “Sonny” Tucker, ABSC executive director. “Our disaster relief units are on the ground and others are waiting for notifications from local authorities. Arkansas Baptists will be a part of rebuilding lives and reestablishing hope.

In addition to the feeding unit from Calvary Baptist Association preparing meals in Vilonia, a Geyer Springs First Baptist Church shower unit is located in Vilonia, along with chainsaw crews from Union Valley Baptist Church, Beebe, the Arkansas Valley Baptist Association and the Bartholomew Baptist Association. Chainsaw crews from Faulkner Baptist Association, Balboa Baptist Church, Hot Springs Village, Central Baptist Association and the Arkansas River Valley Baptist Association are serving in Mayflower. Another chainsaw team from The Church at Rock Creek is serving in west Little Rock.

Arkansans seeking to assist with recovery efforts may make donations to the ABSC disaster relief fund by visiting www.absc.org and clicking on the “Donate Now” button. Donations will go directly to the recovery efforts and victims affected by the storms.

Online donations can be made to the ABSC disaster relief fund by going to www.absc.org and clicking on the “Donate Now” button. These donations go directly to the recovery efforts and victims affected by the storms.

In addition, ABSC leaders are partnering with Arkansans to collect “Buckets of Love,” consisting of a plastic five-gallon bucket packed with selected items. For more information about bucket items, go to www.absc.org and click on the “Buckets of Love” button.

For additional information on the disaster relief efforts contact Matt Ramsey at 501-376-4791, ext. 5158 or email mramsey@absc.org.

Arkansas Baptists are part of a larger network of Southern Baptist volunteers trained to respond to disas- ters by manning mass feeding operations, using chainsaws to clear downed trees and limbs, clear mud out of flooded homes and more. Together, Southern Baptists comprise the third largest relief organiza- tion in the United States.

To learn more about Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief, go to www.absc.org/disasterrelief

Friday
Apr252014

Bedding Mart to donate 100 mattresses to needy children in Arkansas  

LITTLE ROCK – Every resident of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries  (ABCHomes) will be receiving a new mattress April 24-26, thanks to Arkansas’ largest mattress dealer. 

Bedding Mart  is teaming up with Tempur-Pedic North America to provide 100 new mattresses for each resident of ABCHomes’ seven statewide locations. They will also be providing mattress protectors and pillows.

According to a news release by Bedding Mart president Brad Jordan, the company feels they owe a debt of gratitude to the community, who has made their existence possible. “We have been blessed by all the wonderful people of Arkansas. We wanted to do something that would have a profound impact on the great communities across the state and nothing can impact a person’s life more than good sleep. This is especially true for children who may feel alone or afraid and helpless. We aim to give them hope by helping to provide the strength and energy needed to chase their dreams,” noted Jordan.

ABCHomes locations receiving the mattresses include: Promise House Maternity Home of Little Rock and the Arkansas Baptist Home for Children in Monticello, April 25; the ABCHomes emergency homes in Judsonia and Paragould and the Family Care Home of Jonesboro, April 26; and the Arkansas Boys Ranch in Harrison and the Tommy Jones Emergency Home in West Fork, April 26. 

“We are very grateful for the generous donation from Bedding Mart and Tempur-Pedic North America,” noted Stella Prather, ABCHomes communications director. “It is because of wonderful donors such as these that ABCHomes can continue to care for many children and teens in crisis.”

For information on ABCHomes visit www.abchomes.org. 

Thursday
Apr242014

Crowds greet Master'Singers in Ukraine

BERDICHEV, Ukraine – Arkansas Baptists ministering in Ukraine as a part of the Arkansas Master’Singers choir are experiencing “phenomenal” crowds as they perform in the country that has undergone political upheaval and a change in presidential leadership in recent months.

The 80-voice choir has plans to visit four different regions of western Ukraine to perform in 11 evangelistic concerts, where the choir will sing and international evangelist Michael Gott will preach. Organizers of the trip are expecting more than 15,000 people will attend the special ministry events. 

“Tonight was just incredible,” Larry Grayson, Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) evangelism and church health team member, reported via email to ABSC staff April 23. “We sang in Berdichev on the very stage where (Joseph) Stalin stood to promote Communism. It was a 900-seat room. Every seat was filled, and every space in the aisles, stairs, etc., was filled with overflow people and they turned people away. It was an unbelievable night. I will know in the morning how many decisions were made.” 

Vyacheslav Nesteruk, president of the Baptist Union of Ukraine, and several other Baptist leaders, invited Gott to preach after he was already scheduled to tour western Ukraine with the Arkansas Master'Singers April 21–May 2. 

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