ALTO, Texas – Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units have deployed across the South following a weekend of storms that caused at least eight deaths, injured dozens more and left damage from Texas to Georgia.
In east Texas, DR units from both Texas Baptist Men and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention deployed after an EF-2 and an EF-3 tornado touched down. At least four people in Texas died, according to media reports, including two children who were killed when a pine tree fell on the car carrying them near Pollok, Texas.
"When things seem really bad, we're able to come in and just introduce that ray of hope for them to take the next steps," Texas Baptist Men spokesman Rand Jenkins told NBC's Dallas affiliate.
Texas Baptist Men, a ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, deployed DR teams to the hart-hit towns of Franklin and Alto, Texas, April 14, according to a BGCT news release. Their ministry has included feeding units, chainsaw crews, shower and laundry units, temporary roof installation, assessment and chaplaincy.
SBTC volunteers were headed toward Franklin with a quick-response mobile kitchen within two hours of an April 13 tornado, the North American Mission Board told Baptist Press. Self-contained like a food truck, the quick-response mobile kitchen is designed to serve a few hundred simple meals quickly before a larger feeding operation can be established. The unit also focuses on evangelism, the SBTC said.
A second SBTC DR team dispatched to Alto and focused on feeding and recovery.
"Lots of [church] members have gone out with chainsaws helping to clear the trees and the debris," said Gary Pridemore, pastor of First Baptist Church in Alto, where the SBTC team has established a base of operations. Locals and outside volunteers "have been working like beavers getting all the trees cut up and roads cleared."
In Mississippi – where at least one person died according to media reports – six local chainsaw teams deployed along with three teams focused on chaplaincy and assessment, NAMB said.
In Alabama, a DR team did chainsaw work in the city of Troy while another team did chainsaw and roof tarping work in Etowah County, Alabama Baptist DR director Mark Wakefield said.
At least one county worker died near Birmingham, Ala., when a vehicle struck him as he attempted to clear fallen trees from a roadway, according to media reports.
In Louisiana – where at least two deaths were reported – a DR team from Blanchard performed tree removal and roof repair work, according to Louisiana's Baptist Message newsjournal. The team also distributed Bibles and water.
At one point on April 14, nearly 90,000 people across the South were without power because of the storms, the Associated Press reported.
Pridemore, of Alto, Texas, requested prayer for the safety of DR workers, the recovery of injured people and the spread of the gospel.
"Pray that [DR work] will open doors to the ministry of the churches," Pridemore said.
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.