Editor’s note: The ministry of Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief, including training and deployment is made possible in large part through the generous gifts of Arkansas Baptists to the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering as well as the tireless efforts of the many incredible DR volunteers.
After reviewing information from various weather sources at the beginning of the week, Director of Disaster Relief for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention Randy Garrett, says he knew that a substantial storm would hit the state sometime that weekend. Confident in this assessment, Garrett began preparing for deployment by calling units and putting them on standby.
On Friday afternoon, Garrett was already on the phone with Corners Chapel Baptist Church in Payneway to discuss response in the Trumann area. By the time the storm hit Friday evening, the Tri-County Recovery Unit was already on standby. So, when local law enforcement asked for immediate help, the Tri-County Feeding Unit was in Trumann moments after the storm helping to clean the streets. The feeding unit and incident management teams from Corners Chapel Baptist Church were set up the next day in the parking lot of First Baptist Church in Trumann.
DR teams assessed damage in Augusta and the surrounding areas. As reports of damage continued to come in, chainsaw crews were deployed to Leachville and Monette. The Current-Gaines feeding unit arrived on Saturday, December 11 and set up at New Hope Baptist Church in Black Oak, along with an Incident Management Team to handle both locations. Garrett says they chose Black Oak because it was outside of the footprint of the destruction but still close enough to get food in and out. The Salvation Army once again partnered with ABSC DR to purchase and deliver the food while the ABSC DR feeding teams prepared the food.
On Saturday, while DR teams were being deployed to Northeast Arkansas, a group of volunteers was going through DR training in Russellville. Of the 46 in attendance, more than 30 were brand new volunteers. Garrett and his assistant, Keturah Quimby, handled the logistics of the deployment and fielded multiple phone calls all while training new volunteers who will now be prepared to serve during the next disaster.
In the past week, Garrett says over 170 volunteers have served including the two feeding units, the Corners Chapel shower laundry unit and seven chainsaw teams. The chainsaw crews were made up of volunteers from Tri-County Baptist Association, Arkansas River Valley Baptist Association, Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Walnut Street Baptist Church in Jonesboro, First Baptist Church in Clarksville, Corners Chapel Baptist Church and Beckspur Baptist Church in Forrest City.
Garrett says that the recovery efforts will slowly be winding down this week. Starting Thursday, the mass feeding will close due to a lack of need as the power has been restored in the area. The Trumann Feeding Unit will continue operating as long as the local rec center is helping the public. Chainsaw work is expected to be completed by Friday.
In all, over 300 buildings were damaged or destroyed across the state as a result of the storms. Garrett says he has heard of only one ABSC church that was damaged, East Side Baptist Church in Trumann. Sadly, it has also been reported that two people lost their lives.
The work done by the ABSC volunteers has made a lasting impact on the survivors affected by the storms. As of Wednesday, December 14, ABSC DR teams had prepared a total of 5600 meals, completed 32 chainsaw jobs and tarped 15 roofs. Chaplains had the opportunity to share the Gospel ten times with two salvations reported to this point.
Dr. J.D. “Sonny” Tucker, Executive Director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, shared that two of the ABSC’s missions partners, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the Louisiana Baptist Convention have both contributed generous financial gifts to help with the latest recovery efforts around the state. These gifts and others given this past week, when combined with the resources provided through the Dixie Jackson State Missions Offering, will help to ensure that the ministry provided through Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief will continue to be available to those who need it the most.
Tucker had this to say when asked for his reaction to the generosity of all who have contributed to the latest disaster relief efforts, “I want to thank Arkansas Baptists for their heart for Disaster Relief, and for their faithful giving to the Dixie Jackson State Missions Offering and to missions through the Cooperative Program. I also want to express deep appreciation to two of our great Kingdom partners, Kevin Ezell and the North American Mission Board and Louisiana Baptists and Executive Director Steve Horn, for their generous gifts to relief efforts in Arkansas. People around Arkansas and our nation are being impacted for the Kingdom because of the incredible partnerships we share as Southern Baptists. As I watch the level of response from Arkansas Baptists, I am again convinced that Arkansas Baptists are some of the greatest folks in the world.”
If you are interested in learning more about Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief, becoming a DR volunteer, or need to have your credentials updated, go to www.abscdisasterrelief.org and register for the training to be held at Indian Springs Baptist Church in Bryant on March 12, 2022.