SBC President Bart Barber, Immanuel Baptist Church Pastor Steven Smith and a volunteer survey damage from the March 31 tornado.
In a world where some people always want to talk about what is wrong with evangelicalism, Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber said, “Southern Baptist Disaster Relief gives people a true picture of who we are and what the gospel of Jesus Christ has done in us.”
“Jesus has made us love our neighbors and we show that in moments when they need us the most,” Barber said.
After tornadoes tore through Arkansas, leaving destruction in their wake, on March 31, Southern Baptists donned their yellow shirts and caps and went to work providing help, healing and hope to those in need.
On Tuesday, Barber, along with Send Relief President Bryant Wright, visited areas hit by the twisters, including Little Rock, North Little Rock, Jacksonville and Wynne.
Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief has command centers at Immanuel Baptist Church (Little Rock), Levy Baptist Church (North Little Rock), Second Baptist Church (Jacksonville), and Wynne Baptist Church. Out of these centers, they are assessing damage and providing chaplain services, meals and recovery services for homeowners.
Immanuel Baptist Church was asked by the city to be a Family Assistance Center, hosting the Salvation Army, and is serving as a command location for the Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief, who came to aid Arkansas in recovery efforts.
Debra Britt of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention said they had their mass feeding team present as well as recovery teams.
“We reach out to individuals that have been calling in need of assistance. We send our assessors and chaplains out to see what kind of damage they have and if there is anything we can do to help. They bring back what they have assessed. Then we turn it over to our recovery teams who have the chainsaws and heavy equipment to go out and clean up the property, get the trees off of houses and whatever they need,” Britt said.
People are devastated when there is disaster. Britt said Disaster Relief is designed around hope in crisis.
“We minister to them that there is hope,” Britt said. “We get a lot of questions of why do we do this? We explain that we’re here to be a blessing to them, to help them and to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Other Disaster Relief teams from surrounding states aiding in relief and recovery efforts are the Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief and Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief.
Like these teams came to Arkansas to provide aid, the Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief recently had teams deployed to Rolling Fork, Mississippi. When the twisters hit Arkansas on March 31, the units packed their gear and returned to provide aid in their home state.
“Although this is generally a state convention ministry, on a national level, Arkansas was in Mississippi helping Mississippi. They had to come back here. Texas came in to help. Our national partnership is a way we help one another,” Barber said.
Along with all the yellow Southern Baptist Disaster Relief shirts, there were also light blue shirts worn by the volunteers of Immanuel Baptist Church at the City Center.
Church member Paul Young was one of the “prayer warriors” praying with and for those who drove through for assistance.
Young greeted the drivers, asked for their last name and whether they live in an apartment or house. He also asked them, “Are you a Christian?” He then shared the plan of salvation with them and prayed with them.
On Monday, Young was able to lead one woman to a decision of faith.
In a social media post on Tuesday, Barber shared about his visit to Little Rock. He called the damage caused by the recent EF-3 tornado “absolutely astounding.”
“If you come to something like this, it will remind you why it is important for Southern Baptist churches to be cooperative with one another because no one church could do what is being done here and every church is benefiting,” Barber said.
Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief currently has around 13 units deployed throughout the state.
If you need assistance, contact the Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief call center at 800-806-6940. Volunteers will be available 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to take requests.
If you would like to donate, visit abscdisasterrelief.org.
Please continue to pray for survivors as they navigate the days ahead and all Disaster Relief volunteers ministering on the scene.