Deadly storms damage churches, Baptist college

OTTAWA, Ill. (BP) -- Storms in the South and Midwest this week left at least four people dead, damaged church buildings and led to deployment of Baptist disaster relief workers in four states.

Arkansas DR volunteer Greg Hutchison cuts a tree off a car in Conway, Ark.
Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
The storm system killed three people in Illinois and one in Missouri, with at least 10-15 injured in Arkansas, according to media reports. At least seven states were affected Feb. 28-March 1.

An overnight thunderstorm in Walnut Ridge, Ark., downed trees and power lines at Williams Baptist College, damaging at least three vehicles, the Arkansas Baptist News reported. The Arkansas Baptist State Convention-affiliated school received assistance with debris cleanup from a state convention DR team.

In Kentucky, at least four churches were damaged by storms March 1, the Kentucky Baptist Convention's Kentucky Today news service reported. In northern Kentucky, First Baptist Church of Walton saw its 35-foot steeple lifted off a building and thrown onto a busy highway during the early morning commute.

Baptist DR teams in Illinois are being deployed to four separate regions of the state -- one in the north and three in the south, said Dwayne Doyle, director of men's ministry and missions for the Illinois Baptist State Association. DR efforts are focused largely on debris removal and could include more than 100 volunteers by the middle of next week.

Missouri Baptist Convention DR volunteers place a tarp on a storm-damaged roof in Perryville, Mo.
Missouri Baptist Convention photo
Working in the southern Illinois town of Vergennes, DR volunteer Don Kragness told local television station WSIL, "We are here, basically, because we love Jesus and we want to serve Him and the best way we know how to serve Him is to help people when they're in need."

Approximately 55 Missouri Baptist Convention DR volunteers have deployed to Perry County, Mo., some 80 miles south of St. Louis, where a person was killed and at least eight to 10 homes were damaged, according to the Associated Press.

The bulk of the DR work in Missouri is cleanup and placing tarps on damaged roofs, said MBC DR specialist Dwain Carter.

There is "a lot of community support" in Perry County, Carter told BP, "neighbor helping neighbor, friends helping friends.... They just have a 'let's work together' attitude to get it all done."

Arkansas Baptist State Convention DR teams were deployed to five areas of the state, with work at one site yet unfinished. A total of 30 volunteers have completed 16 chainsaw cleanup jobs and placed tarps on 14 damaged roofs, the ABSC told BP.

One person in Arkansas professed faith in Christ as Lord and Savior as a result of the DR ministry.

"We don't go out just to cut the trees and feed people," said Randy Garrett, ABSC DR director. "We go out to minister to people and share the Word of Christ."

Southwest Indiana experienced minor damage from a tornado, leading to deployment of some 10-15 DR volunteers near Owensville to assist with cleanup.

Rick Hillard, the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana's director of missional coordination, told BP the Hoosier State was "just really fortunate. If it would have been a little stronger and stayed on the ground a little longer, it would have been more of a devastating tornado."

Kentucky Baptist Convention DR leaders assessed damage but determined no volunteers were needed in their state.

With reporting by Lisa Sergent, communications director for the Illinois Baptist State Association. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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