Tens of thousands of Arkansas residents were left without power last week following a winter storm that produced ice of up to half an inch throughout the southern region of the state.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, it was reported the number of Arkansans without power reached more than 67,000 people.
To help aid these residents in their time of need, Arkansas Baptists throughout the south shared warmth, food and God’s love.
The Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief’s incident management team deployed on Friday, Feb. 3, to south Arkansas. The team was set up at First Baptist Church in Fordyce and comprised recovery and chainsaw units from First Baptist Church in Russellville, the shower/laundry unit of Geyer Springs First Baptist Church and the Red River Baptist Association feeding unit.
Additionally, Harmony Baptist Association had a recovery unit working in Star City and the Southeast Arkansas Baptist Association’s feeding and recovery units were deployed in Monticello.
Several churches also established warming centers for residents without electricity.
For instance, in Sheridan, TrueHope Church volunteered its building as a warming center. Pastor Jeff Estes said they made the offer after seeing the community express the need to the city on social media. He noted it was a collaborative effort.
“It was just cool to see people come together,” Estes said. “We want to make the community better however we can. We’re not there for them to serve us. We want to serve them. Even if they never step foot in our church or come to Jesus, we want everybody in town to know that God loves them and we’re going to love them regardless.”
Additionally, Estes said he hoped working collaboratively with others in the community will help break the ice with some of the other churches and pastors. TrueHope is a relatively new church plant location.
“As a new church, sometimes churches worry that you’re around to take their members. We really have tried to dispel that. We’re not there to get people from other churches, we’re there to reach the people that aren’t reached,” Estes said.
In Monticello, First Baptist Church Pastor Kelly Jones said a friend of his at Entergy contacted him and another church, New Life Assembly of God, to see if either one could act as a warming center.
Jones said their Associational Missionary Joe Day of the Southeast Arkansas Baptist Network had already reached out about setting up a feeding unit in the parking lot. Taking on the role of the warming center went hand in hand with that. So, First Baptist Church in Monticello accepted the role and partnered with New Life Assembly for volunteers.
In the end, Jones said they only had one man show up the night of Feb. 2 to take advantage of the warming center.
“A lot of people may think, what a waste for just one person, but I really feel like it was a blessing to get to love on that one man and provide him a warm place to sleep,” Jones said.
Jones referenced Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.”
“We’re trying to be a church that has a presence in our community. … This is just one way for us to get an audience with some folks that we otherwise would not,” Jones said.
Jones also referred to Jeremiah 29:7, which says, “Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.”
“Seek the welfare of the city where you dwell. That’s my mindset, too, when we do ministry. We live here. This is our home. This is our community, and we want to better it in any way that we can. I think that bodes well for our church when the people in our community see that we care about Monticello and want to do good for the people and do things that help,” Jones said.
According to Entergy’s Feb. 3 morning winter storm update, most outages were attributed to ice accumulating on trees and tree limbs, causing them to fall onto power lines. Additionally, the update said half an inch of ice can increase the weight of a tree limb as much as 30 times, causing limbs to bend, snap or fall.
Other Arkansas Baptist churches listed as warming centers as of Feb. 3 on Entergy’s website included Cullendale First Baptist Church, Calvary Baptist Church in Camden and First Baptist Church in Lepanto.