On the morning of Jan. 16, two Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief (ABDR) volunteers found themselves responding to a present emergency – a real-time disaster.
ABDR, a subsidiary of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) primarily focuses on giving aid to communities where natural disasters have struck.
While volunteers were working on repairing a roof damaged from recent tornadoes in the southeast Arkansas region, they noticed smoke billowing up just a few houses down the street.
Suspecting the house was in danger, two volunteers left repairing the roof to investigate.
After being informed by a neighbor that inside the now burning house were two elderly women, the volunteers entered the house to find and remove the victims.
Howard Moose, one of the volunteers at the scene said they had to act quickly to rescue the women.
“We just didn’t have time to think about it,” Moose told Baptist Press. “We were there and we were working next door and we saw the house on fire and we heard a lady screaming and we just went in and did what we had to do.”
It was completely black from smoke inside the home, Moose recalled.
“We went in and we couldn’t see, we couldn’t breathe,” Moose said. “We were choked, we were down at floor level.”
But miraculously, the smoke lifted for just the right amount of time for Moose and another volunteer to find the victims.
“For a brief moment the smoke did clear,” Moose said. “No explanation other than divine intervention.”
One of the women also used a wheelchair, but had been unable to retrieve it and exit because of the smoke, even with the help of the other occupant.
Moose said the woman who could walk on her own was trying to help the other victim, but was quickly succumbing to the smoke.
In the moment of clarity, the volunteers were able to successfully remove the women from the house and then quickly re-enter to rescue the occupants’ dog.
The dog, found on the back porch, was unconscious and required mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, ABSC said in a release regarding the event.
“It was a God thing that we happened to be working.”Randy Garrett, ABDR director
Moose recalled that as they exited the house and went down the wheelchair ramp with the victims, the room immediately filled again with black smoke and began to cave in.
The house was destroyed by the fire, but volunteers were also able to retrieve the occupants’ car, saving it from damage.
Many teams and groups of volunteers played a role in the rescue, Moose said. Some even accompanied the two women to the hospital after the incident.
Randy Garrett, Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief director, said any volunteer on site would have acted the same as Moose.
“You just have to know these guys,” Garrett said. “They’re just good people. It could have been any volunteer in the state of Arkansas. If it would have been other units, the same thing would have happened.”
Garrett credits the timing of ABSC’s relief work and the nearby home affected by tornados to God’s providence.
“It was a God thing that we happened to be working,” Garrett noted. “We had two teams that just were there. It was a blessing that we were in the vicinity and they didn’t hesitate. When they heard there were people in the home, they immediately rushed in.”
Garrett said the Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief seeks to help fill practical needs but also give spiritual guidance, trying to facilitate recovery in all disaster situations.
“We just go to help folks and share the word of Jesus,” Garrett said. “Any disaster, we are in a position to give recovery help and get to people in need.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Shoonhoven is a Baptist Press staff writer.)