MIDDLESBORO, Ky. – Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief workers are poised and prepared to begin working in flood-ravaged southeastern Kentucky.
Following a week of rain, DR assessors on Saturday were able to look over the damage and begin assembling teams.
Dave Hampton is the Blue Hat (team leader) for the effort that begins Tuesday, Feb. 18. Two crews of seven to 10 members each from Richmond and Monticello have been called out and will likely stay through the weekend doing mud-outs in Harlan, Bell, Knox and Whitley counties, he said.
Last week, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency in those counties and four others in southeastern Kentucky.
Not only will the Disaster Relief teams be cleaning up mud-drenched homes, but they will be ministering to residents who have had their lives turned upside down in one of the worst floods in the area in decades.
Some were comparing it to a 1977 flood that paralyzed the region for weeks and washed away roads and homes.
“For what we do, Bell County is the worst damaged,” Hampton said. “I’m talking strictly mud-out, cleaning up the houses.”
Hampton said they tried to do assessments throughout the week but a continuous rain made it impossible. They were finally able to do it on Saturday and started deciding how many teams and what was most needed.
He said five chaplains, including himself, will be on hand to attend to spiritual needs as well.
“If people want to talk, our job, first of all, is listen to them, let them tell their story and then we can share Jesus with them,” he said. “A lot of them don’t have any church affiliation in the mountains. We go from there. We carry Jesus with every mud-out we work on. Every house we leave a Bible – and everybody that worked in that house signs the Bible – and pray with them.”
Hampton said everything the workers do is bathed in prayer from the start to the finish.
He said the flooding isn’t nearly as bad as it was in 1977 but it’s still plenty treacherous. Roads are washed out making it difficult to get around.
“For those who live along the Cumberland River, it’s bad,” he said. “Overall, I’d rated most of the area about 3 out of 5. But it’s No. 1 (the worst) for some of the people.”
Hampton said the Red Cross and emergency managers have given them a list of homes in those four counties.
He said some crews will be housed at Clear Creek Bible College in Pineville and some at Cedaridge Ministries in Williamsburg. Churches in the area will be feeding the teams, Hampton said.
Crews will go into houses and carry everything out that has been water-damaged or ruined. Then they will assess each house and decide how much damage has been done to the inside. They will clean out the mud and then cut out drywall above the water line, usually about four feet. If floors are damaged, they will remove those as well.
“It doesn’t matter the condition of the home,” Hampton said. “We try to help them. It’s all they’ve got sometimes.”
He added that many gospel conversations take place as crews work alongside shell-shocked homeowners. “That’s really why we do what we do,” he said.
Hampton is filling in for state director Coy Webb, who is out of the country.
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.