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Donate Online 2011 Mississippi Tornadoes

The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board is accepting financial donations to assist the victims of the violent weather that moved through Mississippi. Checks should be made payable to MBCB, with “Miss. Disaster Relief” noted on the memo line. The address to mail donations is:

Mississippi Baptist Convention Board

P.O. Box 530

Jackson, MS 39205-0530

“In-kind” donations, such as food, clothing, or equipment, are not being accepted at this time.

For more information regarding the ongoing relief effort, contact Carol Wright in the MBCB Men’s Ministry Department at the above address. Telephone: (601) 292-3334 or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651, ext. 334. E-mail: cwright@mbcb.org.

For volunteer information and coordination, please click here.

View/download video/slideshows of tornado damage

Lead Story from the June 9, 2011, Baptist Record

“Disaster teams gearing for hurricanes”

Ready to Go photo

READY TO GO – Volunteer members of the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force prepare a meal for victims of the tornado that roared through Clinton and the surrounding area on April 15, causing significant damage to businesses and homes. The Task Force’s Mass Feeding Unit, a fully self contained eighteen-wheeler capable of preparing thousands of meals per day, was working from the parking lot of the old Morrison Heights Church campus in Clinton. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By Tony Martin Associate Editor

As if Southern Baptist disaster relief teams haven’t faced enough challenges during a record-setting spate of deadly tornadoes in the South and Midwest over the past month, June 1 marked the official start of the 2011 North Atlantic hurricane season.

In Mississippi, an EF-2 tornado hit Central Hills Retreat shortly after midnight on Jan. 1, but by daylight Yalobusha and Calhoun Association chainsaw teams were cutting trees so assessments could be made.

The camp was back in operation by March 25, hosting its first event.

On April 15, tornados hit Mississippi again. The Briar Hill Church, Florence, feeding unit was set up at the old Morrison Heights Church site in Clinton with 10 volunteers. Several associational chainsaw teams were activated.

The state feeding unit went to DeKalb to provide meals in that area using 10 members of the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force members and several trained volunteers from Kemper Association. That same night, another tornado hit the Leakesville area, and associational teams in the area went to work feeding and covering homes with blue tarps. Three volunteers from the Task Force went to assist the associational volunteers.

On April 25, an EF-5 tornado hit Smithville, Wren, Monroe County, and other parts of north Mississippi. To date, this incident has involved 221 volunteers, with 7,381 hot meals served. Church and associational chainsaw teams completed 119 jobs plus doing general chainsaw work.

Chaplains made contacts with 212 families. The shower units provided showers for 394 people and washed 64 loads of clothes. Teams assisted with 32 roofing jobs, and Golden Triangle Association hosted a debris removal day using 87 volunteers.

The month of May presented Mississippi with the worst flooding along the Mississippi River in over 100 years. A task force of five operated from North Greenwood Church, Greenwood, for several days. Currently, deployment hinges on the flood waters to go down so that teams can begin mud-out operations.

The beginning of the 2011 hurricane season is a good time for families, churches, associations, and communities to stop and make preparations so that in the event of a disaster, they will be ready with resources and a plan, said Mickey Caison, the North American Mission Board’s disaster relief team leader.

White House Briefing photo

WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING — President Barack Obama (at head of table) listens as FEMA administrator Craig Fugate (third from left) speaks about federal preparedness for the 2011 hurricane season during a briefing in the Situation Room of the White House on June 1. In attendance was Mickey Caison ((seventh from left, in yellow Southern Baptist disaster relief shirt), president of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters and coordinator of Southern Baptist disaster relief operations at the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in Alpharetta, Ga. (BP photo courtesy of The White House)

Individuals can find resources to help their families, churches and associations prepare for potential disasters at wwww.mbcb.org and www.namb.net/Disaster-Relief-Preparedness. Resources to assist in disaster preparedness are also available from the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) and at www.ready.gov.

According to Don Gann, consultant in the Men’s Ministry Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, there is much that families and churches can do to prepare for hurricanes.

“If churches are in the coastal area, we have a setup through which we can pre-identify feeding sites, and they are pretty much the same from year to year,” said Gann. “We send them a letter reminding them, and we also have secondary sites to which we can transport food.”

If a church needs to get ready, there are some basic steps to take. For instance, churches should encourage their people to have on hand three days’ worth of supplies. Important papers should be put in a safe place. We encourage churches to keep track of their folks, check on them, and make sure that if evacuation orders come there is some plan in place to take care of the people.”

Gann encourages churches to have some sort of plan. “Some churches on the coast have sister churches in the central and northern parts of the state that are evacuation locations,” he said. Members in those churches would know where they could go in the event of an evacuation.

Several churches in the Jackson area have that relationship with coastal churches. Garaywa Camp & Conference Center in Clinton is the evacuation site for New Orleans Seminary, Gann said.

Gann added that the Red Cross website cited earlier has information on how to put together a preparedness kit.

“Some people always stay during a hurricane,” Gann said, “and churches can help by having contact information and a list of who’s staying and who’s not. We just encourage them to be as ready as they can be.

“Since January 1, Mississippi Baptists have been doing disaster relief work virtually every day this year. It’s been a tough year, and this hurricane season could be one for the record books.”


Baptist Press contributed to this article.


“Directions” column from the May 5, 2011, Baptist Record

Prayer and Care

By Jim Futral, Executive Director

Mississippi Baptist Convention Board

The heart of Mississippi is breaking. In fact, all across the southwest and southeast in our country, storms have brought unparalleled destruction and indescribable pain. Here in our state the storms have touched north, south, central, and both sides of the state. We certainly are a people familiar with storms and disasters as we have experienced tornadoes and floods, and hurricanes and fires. This outbreak of bad weather with its rain, hail, tornadoes, and incredible straight line winds is the worst of all times. The storms have been everywhere in towns, cities, countrysides, and forests. You cannot drive very far across our state without seeing some of the scars. The destruction has taken with it houses, businesses, schools, churches, camps, and precious human lives.

What we have experienced from the very beginning of the year is more than likely not over. Historically, the worst month of the year for tornadoes is May. To add to that, the summer is being predicted to be an extreme year for hurricanes, and for flooding created by all of the rains up north coming down our Mississippi River. These beginning months of the year have been difficult and stressed-filled. In the midst of all of this are the human suffering, need, and bewilderment brought on by these disasters. The wonderful volunteers across our state with the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force have been there on the scene doing whatever is needed to be done to help and to bring hope. Our folks are trained, prepared, and willing to be first responders, but it does not stop there, for they remain responders after the initial wave. How thankful we are for what they do and the spirit with which they do it as they literally show up to serve the people and serve the Lord.

On May 15, in the middle of our worst tornado month, I am going to ask for what many of you have already done when you read this, and that is to have a special time of prayer for our storm ravaged state and region. I am going to ask you to pray for families who are grieving and seeking to recover from the loss of a family member, maybe a child. For others it may be the loss of a mom or dad, and for some it may be a brother or a sister. For all of us, it is one of our fellow Mississippians. The weather following the storms of the last week in April was absolutely gorgeous on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but I can assure you that for thousands of these families the clouds and their grief are deep. Pray for them!

Pray also for the many people who have lost homes, businesses, possessions, and irreplaceable memories. Pray for church families that day after day continue to try their best to carry others’ burdens. Pray for our responders, those who are first responders, and those who are continuing to respond because of the enormity of the need and the continuing storms that come. Fatigue that is physical, mental, and emotional sets in, and they need help and encouragement. While we have been focused on the Covering Mississippi in Prayer campaign for months, I am asking all of you, every one of us, to join together in praying for our Mississippi family.

The second thing that I am asking all of our folks to do is to care. That care can be expressed in financial support. Some of you have already done this, but on May 15, I trust that every one of our churches will support an opportunity for people to give. You can do it along with your church or simply send a gift to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. (Be sure to write “Miss. Disaster Relief” on the memo line.)

The Scripture says that we are to weep for those who weep. Our state has been flowing with tears, and it is a marvelous time and opportunity for us to care for one another. I am so blessed to live in this great state where there is a greater heart for giving to help those in need than anywhere else in the nation. Will you capture this moment and take this opportunity of prayer and care that will literally touch people all across our state?

Two things I would like to point out about this May 15 offering for disaster relief. First, we do not usually make an appeal like this. Through your regular giving to the Mississippi Cooperative Program and especially to the Margaret Lackey State Mission Offering, many of the needs are met. However, this unusual spring season of disaster has drained those resources to the point that we desperately need your help.

The other thing that I would point out is the fact that none of these funds will be used for anything other than for disaster relief. All of our folks who are working as caregivers and responders are volunteers. These funds do not pay salaries or administrative overhead costs. We simply get the job done to help people in need. The reality is that today you can help someone. Your help today may be helping you tomorrow, so join with all of the Mississippi Baptist family on May 15 and spend some moments in prayer and care.

Your expressions of faith and love will make a difference.


Lead Story from the May 19, 2011, Baptist Record

“Smithville Church begins recovery”

New Beginning photo

NEW BEGINNING — With their shattered worship center in the background, members of Smithville Church in Smithville on May 8 use fresh-cut flowers to adorn one of the few items to survive the EF-5 tornado that struck the church and town on April 27: a wooden cross found intact in front of the church. Pastor Wes White said while the congregation is currently meeting for worship under a large tent in the parking lot, planning will get underway shortly to rebuild on the site. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

By William H. Perkins Jr. Editor

Pastor Wes White’s voice carried a hint of concern as he prepared for the worship service on the second Sunday after an EF-5 killer tornado leveled virtually all of the small Monroe County community of Smithville on April 27, including Smithville Church. As he surveyed the large tent erected in the parking lot of the church to temporarily house worship services, he observed, “Last Sunday — the first Sunday after the tornado — we had a full house. I kind of expected that, but this Sunday…”

As the minutes ticked down to the 11 a.m. start of the worship service, however, White discovered his concerns were unfounded. Hundreds of people filled the tent and poured out three sides as the pianist began the prelude. People didn’t seem to mind sitting in the direct sunlight outside the tent for the entirety of the service. As a matter of fact, people didn’t seem to mind standing in the sunlight after all the overflow seating was taken.

A tremendous crowd had turned out to hear White’s sermon on the importance of resurrection from 1 Cor. 15. “The Gospel works because of the resurrection. Because of the resurrection, we are not pitiful. Smithville will go forward by the grace of God. Smithville Baptist Church has not seen its finest days yet. We will go forward because of the resurrection,” he said.

After the service, attendees placed fresh-cut flowers on one of the few items from the church to weather the storm, a wooden cross that was found intact in front of the church. Another item recovered virtually undamaged from the church was the stained glass mural from the baptistery, an image of Jesus with his welcoming arms outstretched.

White said a search is underway for meeting space to house the church’s activities so the lot on which the destroyed church building rests can be cleared in anticipation of reconstruction.

Meanwhile, the head of the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force reported that plans to redeploy the Task Force’s mass feeding unit from tornado-stricken areas to Grenada and Brookhaven in anticipation of Mississippi River flooding have been cancelled due to a lack of demand from shelters set up for flood victims.

Jim Didlake, director of men’s ministry for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson and coordinator of the Task Force, said there were about 58 people in the shelters and that Task Force volunteers were utilizing the kitchen facilities at North Greenwood Church in Greenwood to provide hot meals for those people.

Standing Room Only photo

STANDING ROOM ONLY — Members and visitors on May 8 pack the large tent erected on the parking lot of Smithville Church. The church was destroyed along with most of Smithville on April 27 by one of the most powerful tornadoes ever recorded in Mississippi. Attendance at the worship service, the second held since the tornado struck, overflowed the tent to the left, right, and rear. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

Officials have speculated that the low turnout at the flood shelters may be due to the slow rise of the Mississippi River and weeks of warning, both of which allowed people plenty of time to arrange their own accommodations with family and friends.

Task Force volunteers have had a busy Spring, with severe weather and record-setting tornado outbreaks from Leakesville in south Mississippi to Clinton in the central section of the state and Smithville in northeast Mississippi.

“We’re beginning to look more to long-term recovery efforts now,” said Didlake, referring to the ministry of the Task Force in helping communities and individuals rebound from the devastation they have suffered. More information on the recovery phase will be released in coming weeks, he said.

The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board is accepting financial donations to assist disaster victims in Mississippi. Checks should be made payable to MBCB, with “Miss. Disaster Relief” noted on the memo line. The address to mail donations is Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530.

On-line donations can also be made by visiting www.mbcb.org, and clicking on the crawl at the top of the web page entitled, “Latest disaster relief information.” (Direct link)

“In-kind” donations, such as food, clothing, or equipment, are not being accepted at this time. For a list of urgent needs, visit www.fbcamory.org and click on “Disaster Relief Information.”

For more information regarding the ongoing relief and recovery effort, contact Carol Wright in the MBCB Men’s Ministry Department at the above address. Telephone: (601) 292-3334 or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651, ext. 334. E-mail: cwright@mbcb.org.

The ministries of the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force are supported by gifts to the work of the Lord through Mississippi Cooperative Program and the Margaret Lackey State Mission Offering.


Lead Story from the May 12, 2011, Baptist Record

“Vols in action after tornado outbreak”

After the Storm photo

AFTER THE STORM — Workers clean debris from the roof of a home in the East Side community near Leakesville. Mississippi Baptist volunteers were quick to respond in the aftermath of the storms that struck the area the evening of April 15. (Photo courtesy of Mississippi Emergency Management Agency)

By Tony Martin Associate Editor

In the aftermath of the tornados that swept through Mississippi and many other southern states on April 15 and 16, stories of tragedy abound. One bright spot, however, is how Mississippi Baptists, working sometimes together, sometimes independently, were able to join other first responders in meeting needs across the state.

“When disaster comes to a community, we anticipate that the local churches are going to respond just like they would to any other needs in the community,” said Don Gann, consultant in the Men’s Ministry department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. “So when the churches are strong in a community and are able to perform ministry, our role here is just to support that, not to come in and take over. If they need something — access to something that they aren’t able to get but that we may be able to — we can provide that. But the churches are there to start with. They were there before the storm, and they’ll be there after the storm.”

As an example, Gann noted that Mark Sandifer, missions pastor at Morrison Heights Church, Clinton, was one of the first people he saw after the storm hit. “Mark was up on a roof covering the damaged roof with a tarp. We left a roll of tarp for him. He also gave us permission to set up at the old campus of Morrison Heights.”

Gann also stated that Jon Daniels, pastor at Country Woods Church in Byram, is a volunteer fireman. Daniels performed search and rescue operations for the first three hours after the storm hit Clinton, and was able to rescue trapped people and give assessment to teams coming into the hour.

One story of note was the work that took place in Leakesville. Philip Price, associational missions director in Jackson Association, was able to step into the Leakesville area in the absence of Jimmy Holcomb, associational missions director for George/Greene association, who was in Peru on a mission trip.

“I was pastor of First Church, Leakesville, up until September of 2009,” said Price, “and have been here in Jackson County since then. I love Leakesville and have a lot of good relationships there.”

“The Friday evening it happened, I didn’t know what had happened until about 10 o’clock that night,” Price continued. “I got a message to Jim Didlake about it, and he called about five the next morning, wanting to know if I could find out any information about the damage. So I got in the car and got up there a little before seven. I knew Jimmy was returning from Peru Saturday, so I went to the emergency management office there. They asked me to help coordinate the volunteers and church groups coming in, so I got drafted to do that. I was glad to help. They were wondering how they were going to feed all the deputies and the highway patrol. So I called David Williams (pastor of Temple Church, Moss Point), and David got ahold of Doug Crane, a coach at East Central High School there to help.”

“Philip called me a little before eight,” said Williams, “and nobody knew what had happened at Leakesville. I didn’t realize the damage was there. Philip said, ‘we don’t have anyone that can feed,’ so we put together what cooking equipment I had personally, and Doug and I went up and cooked hamburgers and French fries to get them started. The Red Cross got there and was able to deliver with their trucks. We picked up some supplies at Walmart and were able to fix spaghetti that night. We ended up doing over 300 meals, just the two of us. Later that afternoon Doug’s wife, Patty, came in, along with Tish Bishop. Kay [Cassibry] came about one that afternoon, and Jim [Didlake] followed later. They were able to get some more coordination to what we were doing. There was no electricity, just water, at First Leakesville.”

“Sue and Malcolm Eubanks, who are very active at First Leakesville, came in and were a tremendous help,” said Price. “They helped us get some side items together. We were able to feed several firemen, some people from the hospital.” While most of the food went out with the Red Cross, enough was kept on site to feed other emergency workers. Later, food was sent to the local community center.

“We did have a chainsaw crew that came up from Jackson County,” said Williams.

“For the next couple of days, I helped with the group feeding from Rocky Creek Church in Lucedale,” said Price. “They finished their work by Tuesday at lunch.”

Close to one hundred homes in the area were damaged, with eighteen totally destroyed, according to Price. “Most of those folks didn’t have insurance – Leakesville is not a wealthy place.”

“One thing that Coach Crane said that motivated us to be involved and to respond was remembering the quick response we got after Katrina,” said Price. “We saw people come down and take initiative, and so we wanted to do the same thing.”

“I wasn’t surprised, but I was very pleased at how folks responded,” said Gann. “Our people — even those who were right in the middle of it — were there just as early as they could get in. I know they are only representative of plenty of others who got involved. For instance, Morrison Heights was supposed to be the shelter for the area, but since they weren’t able to, Parkway Church in Clinton stepped in.”


Lead Story from the May 5, 2011, Baptist Record

“Call to Prayer issued for storm victims”

By William H. Perkins Jr. Editor

A Call to Prayer on Sunday, May 15, for the victims of the record-setting storms that have spawned several deadly tornadoes so far this year in Mississippi and throughout the South has been made by Jim Futral, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson.

“I am going to ask for what many of you have already done…, and that is to have a special time of prayer for our storm ravaged state and region. I am going to ask you to pray for families who are grieving and seeking to recover from the loss of a family member, maybe a child. For others it may be the loss of a mom or dad, and for some it may be a brother or a sister. For all of us, it is one of our fellow Mississippians,” Futral wrote in his weekly column to be published in the May 5 issue of The Baptist Record, the news journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

“Pray also for the many people who have lost homes, businesses, possessions, and irreplaceable memories. Pray for church families that day after day continue to try their best to carry others’ burdens. Pray for our responders, those who are first responders, and those who are continuing to respond because of the enormity of the need and the continuing storms that come. Fatigue that is physical, mental, and emotional sets in, and they need help and encouragement. While we have been focused on the Covering Mississippi in Prayer campaign for months, I am asking all of you, every one of us, to join together in praying for our Mississippi family,” he wrote.

The Covering Mississippi in Prayer campaign, sponsored by the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board through the Mississippi Cooperative Program, is a year-long emphasis calling Mississippi Baptists to daily prayer. Prayer rallies were conducted in each of Mississippi’s 82 counties during the months of January, February, and March, to kick off the emphasis. Tens of thousands of Mississippi Baptists have responded by signing commitment cards to pray daily throughout 2011.

Futral also called for a special offering on May 15 to support the efforts of the volunteers who are members of the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force.

“The second thing that I am asking all of our folks to do is to care. That care can be expressed in financial support. Some of you have already done this, but on May 15, I trust that every one of our churches will support an opportunity for people to give. You can do it along with your church or simply send a gift to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530. (Be sure to write “Miss. Disaster Relief” on the memo line.),” he wrote.

“The wonderful volunteers across our state with the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force have been there on the scene doing whatever is needed to be done to help and to bring hope. Our folks are trained, prepared, and willing to be first responders, but it does not stop there for they remain responders after the initial wave. How thankful we are for what they do and the spirit with which they do it as they literally show up to serve the people and serve the Lord.

“Through your regular giving to the Mississippi Cooperative Program and especially to the Margaret Lackey State Mission Offering, many of the needs are met. However, this unusual spring season of disaster has drained those resources to the point that we desperately need your help… none of these funds will be used for anything other than for disaster relief. All of our folks who are working as caregivers and responders are volunteers. These funds do not pay salaries or administrative overhead costs. We simply get the job done to help people in need,” Futral wrote.

The complete version of Futral’s column can be read on page four of this issue of The Baptist Record, and is available electronically at the convention board’s web site: www.mbcb.org.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Task Force volunteers remain on active duty around the state, according to Don Gann, consultant in the Men’s Ministry Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board where the Task Force is headquartered.

The Task Force’s main feeding unit, a fully self-contained mobile kitchen built around a large tractor-tractor rig, is stationed in the parking lot of First Church, Amory, and preparing about 3,000 meals per day for storm victims, volunteers, law enforcement officers, and other response personnel who have been sent into some of the hardest hit areas. About 20 volunteers are manning the kitchen there, Gann said.

A feeding team is also working from the kitchen of Central Hills Retreat near West. About six volunteers and the Central Hills kitchen staff are preparing meals there, Gann said, adding that a feeding unit stationed at a local church in the Lambert area of Quitman County is also preparing meals.

“Mississippi Baptist churches and associations in the storm areas have been very proactive in responding to the needs of storm victims, especially in preparing meals,” Gann pointed out. “The churches in Webster County, for example, have gotten together and are taking care of feeding the victims and volunteers in that area.”

Task Force chain saw teams continue to work in several areas of the state, Gann said, with new requests regularly being received. Mississippi Baptist chaplains have also been dispatched to the hardest-hit areas, he said.

Among the hardest-hit areas were Smithville in Monroe County, which was virtually destroyed by an EF-5 tornado – the first top-of-the-scale EF-5 tornado to strike Mississippi since the Candlestick Park tornado in south Jackson in 1966. The community of Wren, also in Monroe County, suffered major damage. In addition, Gann said an area of south Lafayette County along County Road 442 sustained major damage.

Varying degrees of damage were recorded in many other areas of the state – almost too numerous to list, Gann said.

Central Hills Retreat, Mississippi Baptists’ Royal Ambassadors campground near West, was struck by a tornado for the second time this year during the latest round of severe weather, according to camp manager Jim Ray. The first tornado touched down a few minutes into New Year’s Day, and caused major damage.

The second tornado felled some timber and caused minor damage to other areas of the camp but will not affect any previously scheduled activities, Ray said. “Once we were able to survey the camp after the second tornado, it was obvious to us that it won’t have any effect on the schedule. Everything at Central Hills Retreat will go on as planned,” he pointed out.

The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board is accepting financial donations to assist the victims of the violent weather that moved through Mississippi. Checks should be made payable to MBCB, with “Miss. Disaster Relief” noted on the memo line. The address to mail donations is: Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530.

In-kind donations, such as food, clothing, or equipment, are not being accepted at this time. For more information regarding the ongoing relief effort, contact Carol Wright in the MBCB Men’s Ministry Department at the above address. Telephone: (601) 292-3334 or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651, ext. 334. E-mail: cwright@mbcb.org.


Video/slideshows of tornado damage

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