Gospel seeds planted as SBTC DR teams work in flooded Missouri

The SBTC DR recovery team of (from left) Jean Ducharme, Paul Wood, James Palmer, David McClung, and Tom Mathis served flood survivors near St. Louis, Mo., in mid-August. SUBMITTED PHOTO

ST. LOUIS—Rainfall of historic proportions pummeled Missouri and Illinois along the Interstate 70 and 64 corridors on July 26, when an estimated 11 inches of rain fell in an 8-hour period, according to the National Weather Service.

On August 9, the Biden administration approved Missouri’s major disaster declaration request, almost two weeks following flash flooding that swamped the St. Louis metropolitan area, damaging more than 750 homes and 130 businesses, news sources reported.

Even before the federal disaster declaration, disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams had already arrived in the Show Me State, partnering with Missouri Baptist DR to meet the needs of survivors.

“At one point, there were about 120 SBDR and other disaster relief workers onsite,” said James Palmer, SBTC DR unit leader and bi-vocational pastor of Eastside Baptist Church of Rusk. Palmer, with a team of five SBTC DR mud-out and chainsaw volunteers from the Tyler area all the way south to Del Rio, arrived in Bridgeton, a suburb of St. Louis, on August 7. They were housed at the Fee Fee Baptist Church in Bridgeton and began work on August 8 before departing for home on August 13.

The five-man team tackled four massive jobs, said Palmer, who also works part-time for the bridge and road department of Cherokee County.

Even getting to Bridgeton proved challenging, Palmer said. One SBTC DR group with two crew members pulled the recovery trailer stored by the Dogwood Trails Baptist Association while he and two others rode in a separate vehicle. That pickup’s GPS took Palmer and his co-workers on some unexpected short detours, he said. One such side trip delayed them slightly, but after making a U-turn and backtracking down the road, they witnessed a bad accident that had only recently occurred.

“Had we not taken that little detour, we might have been in the wreck,” Palmer mused. “God provides.”

God definitely provided a congenial team with which to work, Palmer said, noting the camaraderie of the SBTC DR volunteers and volunteers from the other Baptist groups, including Missouri.

Jean Ducharme sprays antimold treatment in a survivor's basement while Tom Mathis works on a wall at a flood home. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Seeds planted

The work was intense. At one home, where the basement had filled with 40 inches of water, crew members spent an exhausting day-and-a-half hauling up hundreds of items, only some of which were salvageable. At another home, a tree had fallen through the back three bedrooms, knocking down ceilings. Not only had water flooded the bedroom but also the basement. That job took two days.

There were opportunities to share the gospel and pray with survivors, Palmer said. Some expressed interest. Others, like a man who made a call on his cell phone rather than joining the group to pray, did not. One survivor, a Jehovah’s Witness follower, chided Palmer for praying in the name of Jesus.

“I spent some time trying to communicate the gospel to him,” Palmer said. “I hope a seed was planted.”

In fact, the team leader added, the gospel was planted in the locations served.

“We’ll see what the Lord does next,” he said. “It was a blessing to go and help.”

An added benefit, Palmer said, was that he noted some ways that the homeowners might have been better prepared for disaster, calling it a learning experience for himself and his church.

SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice confirmed that two additional teams are scheduled to deploy to Missouri to continue to help with recovery efforts this week.


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