SBTC DR teams working in Oklahoma

NBC anchors take note of quick Baptist response in Moore

MOORE, Okla.—Disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention were on the ground in Moore, Okla., on Thursday, with three teams of clean-up crews and chaplains expected by week’s end to begin aiding in recovery from last Monday’s devastating tornado.

SBTC DR Director Jim Richardson said SBTC DR teams would be responding to needs in Moore, where authorities said Wednesday that 12,000-14,000 homes were destroyed, and in Shawnee, about 45 minutes east of Oklahoma City, which sustained damage from a tornado the day before the big storm hit Moore.

“The SBTC has three ‘skid steer teams’ responding to clean-up efforts in Moore and a chainsaw team is responding to Shawnee,” Richardson said. The SBTC effort was expected to continue for about four weeks, he added.

Updates on SBTC DR work will be available at sbtexas.com/dr.

In an email to volunteers, Richardson said there have been no requests for material goods. Financial donations will allow for the purchase of items as needed, he said.

He added that prayer for victims and their families, emergency responders, government officials and DR volunteers is needed most. Additionally, more trained volunteers and financial giving are ongoing needs. For giving or volunteer training information, visit here.

As DR volunteers were heading to Oklahoma, operations near Cleburne, southwest of Fort Worth, the site of an EF-4 tornado on May 16, were winding down.

Volunteers trained in cleanup and recovery, operations, assessment, chaplaincy, feeding, and shower/laundry ministry served the equivalent of 100 volunteer days and shared the gospel as they have cleared more than 30 homes of storm debris and damage.

“Thank you to all our volunteers who responded to this call—many lives were influenced by your service,” Richardson said in an email.

Meanwhile, Southern Baptists throughout social media took note that NBC News anchor Brian Williams and reporter Harry Smith mentioned on air the quick response of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers in Moore on Tuesday.

“In the briefings today it was apparent there’s FEMA and then there’s the faith-based FEMA,” Williams said, standing in front of rubble left by the tornado that devastated the area Monday. “There are no fewer—I counted—than 30 churches that are banding together, and that’s going to be a huge part of this recovery.”

Smith added, “As you and I have seen in so many different places in this country, if you’re waiting for the government, you’re going to be in for an awful long wait. The Baptist men, they’re going to get it done tomorrow.”

Williams agreed, “They’re already delivering food on the street.”

Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief workers were in action immediately after the tornado hit, responding with feeding units, debris cleanup and chaplains.

Sam Porter, director of disaster relief for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said “anywhere from 24 to 40 chaplains [will be] on the ground every day all across the storm track just to give emotional and spiritual care to people and give them hope because that’s where we find a great place to minister in disaster relief.”

Oklahoma Baptist chaplains were on the ground at the two destroyed elementary schools with the families as they searched for their children, Porter said, and the leader of the chaplaincy effort was involved in several official notification visits.

Porter reported that 5,500 Oklahoma Baptists were trained in disaster response before the Moore tornado hit, “and today is the day. It’s game-time in Oklahoma with disaster relief.”

Residents of Moore were being allowed back into their demolished neighborhoods Wednesday afternoon, and the death toll stood at 24, including at least 10 children.

The National Weather Service upgraded the storm to an EF5, estimating its winds at more than 200 miles per hour. Early estimates indicate the cost of damage from the tornado could exceed $2 billion.

—Baptist Press contributed to this report

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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