Christian churches minister to tornado ravaged Southern states
Christian churches are responding to the needs of people in southeastern states that were hit by what is considered to be the deadliest attack of multiple tornadoes in 40 years, leaving some 300 dead.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritan’s Purse, the Alabama Baptist Convention and the Red Cross are assessing the damage wrought by some 137 tornadoes that swept through Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.
Teams from the Alabama Baptist Convention along with the Red Cross have been removing debris and are expecting to serve up to 60,000 meals daily. Jerry Butler, director of the Southern Baptist Association’s Alabama Disaster Relief Organization told Christian Press, “We’ll be here for as long as they need us.”
The BGRapid Response Team is working in collaboration with Samaritan’s Purse, both Christian relief organizations headed by Franklin Graham. They are addressing the emotional and spiritual needs of survivors in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham even as they are making damage reports and assessing needs, Christian Newswire said.
Preston Parrish, executive vice president of BGEA told Christian Newswire, “The swath of devastation that has ripped through the South and brought so much death and destruction is stunning. The overwhelming sense of loss — for those who lost their homes, and especially for those who lost loved ones — will be nearly unbearable for many. We want those suffering to know that Christ cares for them, that we are praying for them, and we will be standing beside them.”
Rising death toll
The death toll is continually rising as search and rescue teams mine the rubble. Last Wednesday some 137 tornados ripped through ‘Dixie Alley,’ (the pathway of destruction along the states earlier reported), according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Okla., Christian Press said.
A number of churches were also damaged, including the 202-year-old United Methodist Church in Alabama where only a single pew was seen standing, Christian Press said.
Jake Fauble kept watch over the remains of Ford Chapel United Methodist Church in Harvest to keep looters out. He said there were no deaths as just before the storm passed through, a Mother’s Day Out day care program had ended and everybody left, Christian Press reported.
Fauble said, “Right now I’m just up here keeping an eye on the place to keep the looters out. I just hope that everyone else got out of this okay. I’m sorry to see all the devastation around here and all the homes that are ruined, but-as with the church-it can be rebuilt,” according to Christian Press.
North Carolina’s Samaritan’s Purse has sent crews to Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Cullman, Ala. It has also sent out Disaster Relief Units including emergency supplies and tools packed in a tractor-trailer for volunteers and staff, Christian Press said.
Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and BGEA told Christian Press, “When people lose everything to a tornado, flood or hurricane, it is overwhelming. Even in a country like ours, we can’t just depend on the government to come in and fix everything. As Christians, we are called to help our neighbors in distress.”
Jack Monday, director of BGRapid Response Team told Christian Press, “We are going alongside Samaritan’s Purse and in doing so, together, we seem to meet the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of those directly affected.”