Even before the last of six deadly tornadoes hit three counties east of Dallas on the afternoon of May 1, disaster relief (DR) teams with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) had assembled under the supervision of incident commander Daniel White.
Photo by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN
Disaster relief chaplain John Fuller with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and his wife BJ pray with a family whose home was destroyed by a tornado in Van Zandt County east of Dallas.
Crossroads Church in Canton, Texas, is hosting the SBTC volunteers, providing accommodations, meals and a visible place to park the DR command center, communications trailer, laundry and shower unit and other equipment.
Four people were killed and dozens injured during the storms. The National Weather Service confirmed four tornadoes – two EF-3s with winds from 136 to 165 mph and two EF-0s from 65 to 85 mph – cut a deadly swath through parts of Van Zandt, Henderson and Rains counties on Saturday, April 29. The following Monday, an EF-2 again hit portions of Van Zandt county and an EF-0 struck near Cumby.
One area man stopped at the command center Tuesday with a donation of nearly $200 for victims, which White delivered to Crossroads pastor Mark Robinson to dispense to those in need.
“The man said, ‘We took this up in our community. Use it where it is needed,’” DR director Scottie Stice for the SBTC said, adding that they’re grateful even for “a widow’s mite kind of gift.”
Stice confirmed 36 SBTC volunteers were on site in Canton by Tuesday. A 10-member chainsaw, rigging and tarping team from the Harmony Pittsburg Baptist Association, located an hour and a half northeast of Canton, started work on jobs Monday. Monte Furrh’s five-man team from Bonham, an hour and a half to the north, arrived Tuesday and began tarping houses. Other volunteers in communications, assessment, chaplaincy, shower and laundry and administration assembled as well.
“This is one of the quickest responses to a disaster we have ever seen,” White told a room full of yellow-shirted volunteers Tuesday at Crossroads. “So much came together so fast.”
Encouraging the volunteers, White added, “It’s not about how many trees we cut but about people, telling them about the love of Jesus Christ.”
White and Stice confirmed that work orders, which numbered 25 by Tuesday evening, are expected to increase over the weekend, and the deployment is likely to be both lengthy and widespread.
Alluding to the latest estimates from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office that 5,000 homes and structures were affected by the tornadoes, Stice said he believed many of the addresses would be throughout Van Zandt and neighboring counties. “We are going to have to go out in the rural areas and find the work,” Stice said.
“This situation in the first week of a disaster is very fluid,” White noted. “Many homeowners will have gone to stay with friends and relatives; they have jobs. Typically, we would expect the numbers to jump over the weekend as people return from jobs to their homes.”
Teams are expected to rotate in and out over the weekend and next week, White said. For more information, visit sbtexas.com/evangelism/disaster-relief/how-to-help.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rogers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)