Alabama recovery phase under way
Grace Thornton, Baptist Press
June 10, 2011

Alabama recovery phase under way

Alabama recovery phase under way
Grace Thornton, Baptist Press
June 10, 2011


— Mel Johnson said the word “overwhelming” doesn’t even begin to describe the

aftermath of the tornadoes that ripped apart Alabama

in late April. The death toll in the hundreds. The total devastation.

“It’s been a tough, tough situation — so many lives lost, and so many needs,”

said Johnson, disaster relief strategist for Alabama Baptists. “It doesn’t

matter how well you are prepared, you are never equipped to properly mitigate a

disaster of that size.”

But as he and others have been picking up the pieces in the wake of “our

Katrina,” he said he has seen God at work, no question.

Photo by Doug Rogers

Mel Johnson, top left, leads the emergency strategy session of Alabama Baptist disaster relief leaders and State Board of Missions representatives at 7:30 a.m. April 28, the day after the state was ravaged by tornadoes.

Disaster relief volunteers from 13 state conventions have descended on Alabama,

and people recognize the breadth of the ministry and are drawn to Christ and to

the church because of it, Johnson said. “We are experiencing a tremendous

openness to the gospel.”

Local churches in affected areas have had the opportunity to step into

leadership roles in their communities in ways they’ve never done before, he

said. “Communities and churches are coming together in a real way.”

And other churches in the state have seized the chance to reach out to their

fellow Alabamians in need, and not just for disaster relief, Johnson said.

“Some churches, for example, were going to cancel their Vacation Bible School

because so many members were affected by the tornadoes, but other churches have

stepped up to the plate to come in and run those for them,” he said.

It’s part of the second phase of recovery, a new part of the process for

disaster relief teams.

This phase will go beyond cleanup and move into long-term rebuild.

“We are working to put together opportunities for pastors and directors of

missions to be able to receive some ministry support,” Johnson said. “Not only

have they been affected by storms and tragedies, but their church members have

been affected too.”

State Baptists also will offer counseling opportunities for those suffering

grief and loss, he said.

Disaster relief leaders are working to partner ministry teams with potential

projects, “whether it be rebuilding the church or rebuilding the community,”

Johnson said.

“I have seen a tremendous amount of resolve among volunteers who have done

things so far beyond what I would have expected.”

How long will Alabama Baptists be involved in the recovery process?

“As long as it takes,” he said.

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has been providing a significant

portion of the broad-brush leadership in the recovery process and will continue

to do so, Johnson said. NAMB stepped in to help coordinate the greater Southern

Baptist volunteer response to Alabama,

and Johnson said that’s “a perfect picture of Cooperative Program support and

Cooperative Program spirit.”

“They expressed instant concern, and when our state was wounded, they came

along with other state conventions to the rescue,” he said. “Without that

ministry, we wouldn’t have been able to respond the way we did.”

Mickey Caison, NAMB disaster relief team leader, said Alabama

has done a great job in its response, and other states have come in and done

well also in the midst of a “very large and very deadly tornado season.”

“We have been working to connect the states with sites and will continue to

develop long-term recovery plans for that,” Caison said. “And as Alabama knows

what it needs, we will help put out the call for additional teams to come in

and help. It’s a large job, but we’re all committed to help.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Thornton is a

correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.)