Summer camp is a staple for many churches. In Arkansas, Camp Siloam in Siloam Springs has stood for years as a standard of that camp experience. But on the morning of Sunday, June 23, 2019, a fierce storm felled trees all over the camp property, blocking the entrance and resting on buildings and power lines. Unless director Jason Wilke and his staff could clean up the mess in the next twenty-four hours, there was no way they could welcome the 850 campers expected to arrive early Monday afternoon.
One volunteer suggested they call Randy Garrett to see if Disaster Relief could help. Within three hours, crews from Siloam Springs, Clarksville, and Rogers were mobilized and had arrived with their chainsaws. Working in the persistent rain, with camp staffers helping clear limbs and branches, the crews tackled the fallen trees, prioritizing power lines and buildings to enable power restoration and camp preparation. By 10:00 Monday morning, the chaos was completely cleared. As campers began to arrive a few hours later, no evidence remained of the damage that had been done by the storm. That week saw 27 salvations, with dozens more committing to missions and ministry.
A similar scene played out in Jonesboro recently, in the late afternoon hours of Saturday, March 28, when an EF-3 tornado ripped through neighborhoods and downtown stores. As the storm cleared, Josh and Paige Vicks, members of Journey Church in Jonesboro, stepped out of their shelter to discover that a huge tree had fallen between their house and the neighbor’s home, causing roof damage. Kevin Anthony, next generation and student pastor at Journey, and his wife Brenna rejoiced that they, their daughters, and Brenna’s father had been sheltered from injury, but massive damage to their roof left their home exposed to the elements.
Both families quickly began checking on neighbors and friends and were relieved to discover that all of them had survived and were already jumping in to help one another. But despite their willingness, it was soon obvious that the available tools were inadequate to the massive task before them. Fortunately, Disaster Relief assessment teams were already on the scene. By early Sunday morning, crews were at work, clearing the tree away from the Vicks’ home, building a temporary roof to protect the Anthonys’ home, and helping many others throughout the damaged communities. Local residents banded together, carrying limbs and debris and doing whatever they could to maximize the efforts of the Disaster Relief crews.
“I’ve always heard stories about what Disaster Relief does, and you appreciate those stories,” Jason Wilke explains, “but when they come and meet your need, it moves it to a different level.”
Kevin Anthony agrees. “We’re the ones that always would go. All of a sudden now there’s people here for us, and so I just felt like it was the most tangible expression of the gospel that I’ve ever seen.”
In both situations, the long-term impact was powerful. The selfless investment of Disaster Relief volunteers, combined with local believers helping serve their neighbors in any way possible, left community members open to hearing about the gospel in ways they’d never been receptive before. Even times of crisis and disaster can provide God with the opportunity to accomplish immeasurably more through His people.