MARKED TREE, Ark. – Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief (ABDR) teams recently spent two weeks providing help, healing and hope in the Arkansas Delta.
On June 25, severe weather tore through the Natural State. The National Weather Service in Little Rock reported widespread damage across Arkansas from winds that ranged from 60 to more than 80 mph, downing trees and powerlines. Several areas also saw large hail.
At a moment’s notice, ABDR deployed multiple teams to assist those who had damage to their homes caused by the straight-line winds. Three disaster relief teams from Mississippi also provided aid. In Poinsett County, Incident Commander Bryant Terrell of Corners Chapel Baptist Church said disaster relief assisted residents in Marked Tree, Lepanto, Tyronza and Payneway.
Terrell said they completed 97 jobs, 75 of which were worked by chainsaw units.
“It was a bigger occurrence than it looked like when it started,” Terrell said, noting the majority of the damage was in Marked Tree.
Arkansas Baptist State Convention Missions Team Leader Sam Roberts, who grew up in the Marked Tree area, visited the town and saw the damage first-hand. In a June 29 Facebook post, Roberts said, “I’ve visited many places over the years that have been damaged by tornadoes/storms, but when it’s your hometown it’s so much more difficult. Grateful for our ‘yellow shirt team’ of Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers who are serving.”
“Every area of the community was affected. There were large trees downed everywhere. A lot of homes were impacted,” Roberts said in a follow-up interview.
The Marked Tree native said there has always been racial tension in the town, and it is still there. That tension was heightened by the storm, he said.
“Because those who lived in some of the impoverished areas, the areas where a lot of the African American population lives, felt like they were being overlooked,” Roberts said, noting there were a couple community-wide meetings following the storm damage addressing the issue.
Roberts said the disaster relief volunteers from the area, especially Corners Chapel, understand the community, the history and the problems that are there.
One of the areas severely impacted in Marked tree was an African American cemetery right in the heart of that community.
“We made the decision that we would take our DR teams and have them do the work at that cemetery to clear that and clean it. They did and they did a great job,” Roberts said. “There are a lot of things we do as DR that people can see visibly. They can look at a home that has a blue tarp on it and know that a DR team has been there, has taken the tree off. They can see those sorts of things. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes with the healing. In DR we stress help, hope and healing. The help is very visible. We try our best to get that word out about sharing the Gospel, leaving Bibles with the families and having folks come to faith in Christ. We did have that happen in Marked Tree.”
Terrell reported two salvations during their two weeks deployed in Poinsett County. One salvation was in Marked Tree. The second was in Tyronza.
“The healing part is the part that a lot of times doesn’t get the recognition because it does take place later and that is my prayer for my community. … Hopefully by knowing that our DR teams were there and took care of that this is going to bring some healing within the community especially among those racial lines. … That is our prayer,” Roberts said.