Alert! On Saturday, May 20, you and your church have the opportunity to serve alongside trained Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) volunteers for a flood recovery mass response. A number of disaster relief units have already been deployed to Pocahontas and Randolph County, but our Arkansas Baptist DR volunteers need your help to meet the overwhelming needs of survivors. Click here for more information.
Arkansas Baptist News
POCAHONTAS – As the floodwaters rose, Arkansas Baptists responded.
Recent historic flooding throughout Arkansas, which caused extensive damage to some Arkansas Baptist churches and Camp Siloam in Siloam Springs and forced other Arkansas Baptist churches to cancel services, unleashed a torrent of disaster relief (DR) and local church volunteers to minister in the flood’s soggy aftermath.
The failure of levees along the Black River in northeast Arkansas dumped flood waters into Pocahontas and surrounding communities May 3, resulting in the declaration of a state of emergency.
First Baptist Church, Pocahontas, canceled its Wednesday night services May 3 due to area flooding – displacing area residents and church members.
"Please continue to pray for the evacuees and all those affected by the flooding," First Baptist wrote on its website May 3. "The water has stopped rising but our community still has a long road ahead. Many families are still displaced and continue to need support. ... Be safe!"
While First Baptist facilities did not experience flooding, Shannon Baptist Church in Pocahontas saw around two feet of flooding in its facility, according to Eric Moffett, pastor of First Baptist.
The Current-Gaines Baptist Association (CGBA) DR feeding unit deployed to Pocahontas May 2 in advance of the levee failure. As of press-time, the unit was stationed at 1405 Hospital Drive in Pocahontas and has been feeding victims and volunteers since May 3.
Don Settles, associational missionary for the CGBA, is serving as "blue cap" and leading the feeding unit’s volunteers.
“We are unbelievably grateful for that (disaster relief) because that has taken a lot of pressure off of our church and other churches to care for people so that we can care for some people in different ways,” said Moffett. “We don’t have to worry about feeding, and we don’t have to worry about organizing mud-out units that really go above and beyond our expertise. We can point them toward those resources and then invest in other ways in our community.”
Moffett said that First Baptist has been collecting and distributing cleaning supplies including buckets, bleach and detergent, as well as fans and pumps, to help those affected by flooding to clean and dry out their homes. The church has also partnered with other local churches in staffing its shelter, which, as of May 9, was housing 30 people displaced by flooding. Members of First Baptist have also been volunteering with DR.
“The word of the last week for all of us here has been cooperation. We have been cooperating not only with our disaster relief teams and with our convention, but also with all the other churches in town,” said Moffett.
Randy Garrett, Arkansas Baptist State Convention DR director, said the Pocahontas Mayor's Office initially estimated that more than 100 homes were impacted by floodwaters, with the possibility of more being affected due to the levee's failure.
“The governor has declared 36 of the 75 counties in Arkansas as disasters so we have a lot of work going on,” Garrett said May 9. “Randolph County and Pocahontas are the battleground right now. We have our shower teams there; we have our incident command team there, and we’re doing assessments.”
Garrett said that assessment teams are being accompanied by trained DR chaplains who are available to talk with and are share the gospel with those affected.
Melvin York, pastor of First Baptist Church, Des Arc, said May 9 that a number of families in Des Arc and surrounding areas had been affected by flooding on the White River.
“Most of the major flooding has transpired on the east side of the river,” said York. “The town proper is on the west side of the river, and we are on higher ground. … There was a lot of sand-bagging and levee-building over the past several days.”
As of May 9, York said that multiple highways in the area remained closed and that the Arkansas National Guard was still deployed to the area to aid in security and road closings.
“You can’t get into town from the east side. So we have a lot of people boating across,” said York. “They kept the school open this time so we have kids boating across to go to school.
“I have heard of about a dozen houses, at this point, that have been severely damaged,” he said. “Everybody just got more prepared this time. … This place has turned into a sand-bagging crazy place for about the past five or six days.”
Local churches, including First Baptist, have been active in feeding flood victims, volunteers and National Guard personnel, said York.
On April 29 Siloam Springs experienced flash flooding. Floodwaters damaged Camp Siloam’s grounds and some of the camp’s structures, according to Jason Wilkie, executive director of Camp Siloam.
“The most expensive damage is to the creek bed itself. There is a lot of erosion of the creek bank,” said Wilkie. “We have these valleys that drain into the creek (Little Beaver Creek) that runs into the camp. The flooding pulled gravel out of these valleys. … There are probably 10 to 15 truckloads of gravel everywhere on the lawns.”
Wilkie said the flooding eroded the bed and sides of the Little Beaver Creek to the point that gas, electric and sewer lines were exposed. A water main was broken, and an electrical pole fell and pulled power lines out of the camp’s dining hall during the flooding as well. Two bridges collapsed, and the integrity of two other low-water bridges was compromised.
“The large worship center, for the first time ever, got three inches of water in the side conference room,” said Wilkie. “The good news is that we are insured for flood. But flood insurance doesn’t cover grounds, driveways and bridges. It only covers buildings.”
The damage to the worship center was not enough to meet Camp Siloam’s deductible, said Wilkie. He said that it will cost around $20,000 to repair the creek, clean up the grounds and fix the damaged bridges on the campus. Wilkie said that the camp has never experienced this amount of flood damage before, and it will be difficult to get everything repaired before camp opens this summer.
Contact Caleb Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Arkansas disaster relief visit absc.org/ministries/disasterrelief.