LAMESA The Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief deployment to Lamesa, just south of Lubbock, is embracing the “unexpected,” SBTC DR associate Wally Leyerle told the TEXAN. Leyerle explained that crews initially prepared to assess and assist with damage from twin tornadoes which reportedly struck in and around the town over the weekend of June 24-25.
The intent was to help homeowners remove downed trees and debris. There was plenty of that. But when torrential rainfall caused nearby lakes to overflow, the job changed as the area flooded and the DR mission shifted from feeding to mud out and recovery.
“The weather event was downgraded to a severe storm with microbursts, hail and gusting winds,” SBTC DR associate Daniel White said.
A QRU quick response kitchen unit from San Antonio staffed by Ronnie and Connie Roark arrived in Lamesa on June 28 to prepare meals for first responders and survivors, while SBTC DR volunteers began to assess the damage and provide chaplaincy services.
En route north, the Roarks got the word that a shelter where they had intended to minister had closed. They were rerouted to Second Baptist Church of Lamesa where they served the community for a few days as electricity was restored.
“We served anybody, lunch and dinner,” Ronnie Roark said, estimating that he and Connie prepared from 450-500 meals per day on June 29 and 30.
When power was restored the evening of June 29, the critical need for feeding ended, but the Roarks continued to distribute meals from the QRU with the help of volunteers from Second Baptist and other area churches who passed out clamshells full of hot food prepared by the couple.
SBTC DR volunteers Connie and Ronnie Roark brought the QRU mobile kitchen to Second Baptist Lamesa, with the help of church volunteers feeding hundreds June 29-July 1. (Photo by Russel Skiles, Lamesa Press-Reporter.)
“All were very appreciative,” Ronnie said. “We are here supporting the local churches and serving the community needs. They [church volunteers] got to do the visiting.” In a community of about 10,000 with more than 50 churches, volunteers were readily available, he added.
“They were thankful that the [weather event] wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” Connie said.
When local fire chief Larry Duyck came by and asked the Roarks if they could provide lunch for a large group of Texas Department of Transportation employees from out of the area, the couple readily agreed, cranking out what Ronnie called their “famous sausage wraps” for about 40 TXDOT workers on July 1.
That day the couple also distributed bottled water, coffee and snacks from the QRU to all comers. “We passed out snacks, visited with folks, shared the gospel and prayed with people,” Ronnie said.
DR crews and survivors adopted a wait and watch posture as the waters began to recede, despite more rainfall.
SBTC DR chaplains and assessors also came to survey the area in anticipation of recovery crews being deployed following the July 4 weekend.
Barbara Dunn of Levelland attended public meetings and took preliminary requests for assistance. Terry Bunch of Haskell came immediately, even before Dunn, as he had done a few weeks earlier in Hamlin, Texas, following flooding there.
“My primary aim was to go through and connect with as many of the Baptist pastors in the area I could,” Bunch said, laying the groundwork for later teams “to have a running start.”
Bunch told the TEXAN that he, like Dunn, stopped by the Lamesa public library, which had become a clearinghouse of information for survivors. At the library, Bunch struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman.
When Bunch asked how the man was doing, the survivor replied, “I’m better than a cat. I’ve had 3 heart attacks and 7 strokes. I’ve had 10 lives instead of 9.”
The man showed photos of his flooded home to Bunch, then began to share his life story.
“He told of how hard things had been just doing life,” Bunch said. “I prayed with him. He was a believer. It was cool to pray with him and his wife there.”
Calling this episode “typical chaplain stuff,” Bunch praised the local fire chief and community for rapidly organizing clean up efforts to remove downed trees. SBTC DR crews would follow to help as needed as the waters abated, he said, adding that a small lake by the local Boys & Girls Club had overflowed, filling streets and flooding homes. With the nearby pump station partially submerged, attempts to pump out the water were hampered.
While damaged trees had partly been removed, many dangerous “hangers” or dangling limbs also still posed a threat, Bunch said.
SBTC crews, some fresh from last month’s Hamlin deployment where they completed about two dozen clean up and recovery jobs, began to deploy to Lamesa on July 5.