South’s residents find hope amid chaos
Adam Miller, Baptist Press
May 20, 2011

South’s residents find hope amid chaos

South’s residents find hope amid chaos
Adam Miller, Baptist Press
May 20, 2011


– Armando Sesena, his wife and daughter are now staying with family, but their

house is gone – swept away three minutes after they ran to their basement.

“Three minutes,” Sesena said. “We were in the basement three minutes then whoosh.”

He pointed to what might be part of a wall of his former home, but in a field

of spilled-out houses in Tuscaloosa, Ala.,

it’s hard for people with upturned lives to tell or care what’s theirs. An EF5

tornado churned up the town on its multi-state path April 27, making a long,

belabored cut through downtown Tuscaloosa.

Photo by John Swain.

John Tilley from Westwood Baptist Church in Palestine, Texas, reaches to chainsaw heavy broken branches of a hardwood threatening a roof in Tuscaloosa. As part of the Texas disaster recovery unit, Tilley and members of other Baptist units began work in parts of Alabama following on EF5 tornado that cut across the southeast April 27.

The storm destroyed whole communities across parts of Mississippi, Alabama and

Georgia killing more than 300 people.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) crews rolled in the next day from

Alabama, then from nine other states, hearing stories of how looters created

fresh wounds in an already-wounded city.

But they also heard stories of people caring for one another.

As an SBDR chainsaw team from Texas cut away an oak that crushed her Birmingham

home, Tia Graham said she remembers her prayer of gratitude.

“We put a helmet on my granddaughter and hid in the laundry room. I’d heard of

tornados. They said you hear a freight train, but it was five times louder than

a freight train. We thought, ‘This is it,’” Graham said. “Then everything went

quiet and we realized we were still here. There was debris falling everywhere.

We prayed and thanked God we were alive.

“Everybody came and checked on us,” Graham said. “It was amazing how much people


Tuscaloosa resident Gloria Reed broke down amid piles of pines stacked high by

a Texas SBDR chainsaw crew.

“I’m 72 years old, a widow, it was just terrible,” Reed said. “When a train

passes I jump. Even that little roar of jet sounds different.

“These people showed up. They were a gift from God,” Reed added, referring to

the SBDR team cutting down, cutting up and hauling trees to the street and away

from her house. “I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t shown up.”

To date, SBDR units have reported for the spring storms:

  • 13,469 volunteer days
  • 259,451 meals prepared
  • 1,738 chainsaw jobs
  • 17 mudout jobs
  • 532 chaplaincy contacts
  • 383 Gospel presentations
  • 53 professions of faith

“It’s amazing what becomes unimportant and what people cling to when something

like this hits your life,” said North American Mission Board president Kevin

Ezell, who has visited sites in Alabama. “Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

volunteers provide a demonstration of God’s love and an opportunity for people

to embrace Him.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to NAMB’s disaster relief fund

can go to www.namb.net and hit the “donate

now” button. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail

checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Checks should be

designated for “Southern Storms 2011.” Donations can also be sent via texting “NAMBDR”

to the number “40579.” A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller’s

mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.)

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