‘Need is so great,’ exec says of TN flood
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
May 06, 2010

‘Need is so great,’ exec says of TN flood

‘Need is so great,’ exec says of TN flood
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
May 06, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — All of

the 185 churches in the Nashville Baptist Association were impacted by the

record Middle Tennessee flood in some way, with some seeing nearly half the

members in their congregation suffering flood damage, the association’s

director said May 5.

The May 1-2 flood has put nearly every church in the area in disaster relief

mode, either through cleaning up the church building itself or assisting

members and neighbors who experienced flood damage, or both. Thousands of

houses were flooded after a record 13-plus inches of rain — more in some areas —

fell over a two-day period, pushing creeks and rivers far over their banks.

Although the rain stopped Sunday, many houses remained under water Wednesday.

But the Cumberland River, which crested Monday at 12 feet above flood stage,

was falling.

President Obama declared four counties — Davidson, Cheatham, Williamson and

Hickman — disaster areas, and more could be added to the list. Although

Nashville has received the most national coverage, multiple other communities,

such as Clarksville, Ashland City and Franklin, sustained significant damage.

Parts of West Tennessee, including Dyersburg, also received major flooding.

BP photo by Michael Foust

Many Nashville communities remained flooded Wednesday, although some residents were able to wade through water to check on their property.

“You’ve got thousands of houses that were submerged and most of those people

did not have insurance,” Rusty Sumrall, executive director of the Nashville

Baptist Association, told Baptist Press. “I think we’re in this for the long

haul. The need is so great.”

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean told The Tennessean newspaper he estimates the city

experienced at least $1 billion in damage.

The Tennessee Baptist Convention has set up a disaster relief fund specifically

for Tennessee flood relief. The Nashville Baptist Association has a list of needed items, as well as web forms for those

requesting help and those wanting to volunteer.

“We’re going to need volunteers,” Sumrall said.

Around 30 churches in the association experienced at least some flood damage,

Sumrall said. A truck stop ministry at a TA Travel Center off Interstate 65 in

downtown Nashville was completely destroyed. It had a small chapel that seated

around a dozen people.

“There are thousands and thousands of people impacted,” Sumrall said.

Ricky Lee, pastor of Harpeth Heights Baptist Church in Nashville, estimates

that at least 35-40 percent of his congregation suffered “significant damage”

to their homes.

Said Sumrall, “I think you’ll have several churches where you’ll have that kind

of statistic.”

The flood, Lee said, has led to multiple tragic stories. In one instance, a

Harpeth Heights church family — wife, teenage daughter and infant — traveled

to Louisiana for a weekend funeral service for their 47-year-old

husband/father, only to discover while gone that their house was completely

submerged and they had lost everything.

Greg Watkins, director of church support & recreation for the Nashville

Baptist Association, said more than 100 houses in his neighborhood in the

Nashville community of Bellevue were under water, not to mention “scores” of

condos in the area that also received major damage. “Multiple other

neighborhoods” around him were flooded, he said.

In West Tennessee, Joe Wright, director of missions for the Dyer Baptist

Association in Dyersburg, said Wednesday the south side of the city was still

under water, including Southside Baptist Church.

“We are looking at a 100-year flood for Dyersburg,” he said, adding that the

damage has been extensive.

Earlier this week flood assessors said that at least 461 structures in

Dyersburg had been affected by flood waters, he said. Wright said clean-up and

mud-out teams will be needed.

“We are looking at a two to four-week recovery response, if not longer,” he


(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. With reporting

by Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the

Tennessee Baptist Convention.)