WAVERLY, Tenn. (BP) – Southern Baptists are continuing disaster relief efforts in Waverly, Tenn., after the area experienced record levels of rainfall in early August, resulting in more than 20 deaths and immense property damage.
The area in middle Tennessee received a record 17 inches of rain in the early morning hours of Aug. 21. That amount was twice the level of rain that was projected, and twice the previous record for rain within a short time frame.
Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers were serving in the area mere hours after the destruction took place and stayed long afterward. But the need is still great.
One of the local churches involved with the volunteer work since the beginning is First Baptist Church Waverly. Pastor Scott Brown said the church wanted to help right away however it could, even going beyond financial assistance.
“We basically just said yes to whatever questions there were and whatever needs there were,” Brown said. “I like to say we stamped our yes on the table, and we immediately met whatever needs that we could.
“We recognize that (financial assistance) is putting a band-aid on a problem, so we want to address the long-term issues which is really why we wanted to get behind disaster relief.”
The immediate relief efforts from the church looked like preparing and serving food out of the fellowship hall, meeting medical needs as necessary and offering its facility as a place to stay for those whose homes were uninhabitable.
The church even provided financial assistance for basic needs such as gas and hotels, as well as funeral costs for those who lost loved ones.
FBC Waverly was supported by several local Baptist associations, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse.
At one point during relief efforts, nearly every room on the church’s property was being used for some type of relief work.
Brown described the days immediately after the flooding as “horrible,” and said the relief efforts will be a “a long process.”
Although the relief work has mostly moved into the repair and rebuilding stages, visiting disaster relief teams continue to stay on location at the church, and Brown said the church is “not backing out” on the opportunity to serve their community.
“This is our community and this is us. We’re in it whether we want to be or not. We’re right in the middle of it and our location is key,” Brown said. “This is our mission as a local church. Knowing God and making Him known is what constitutes us as a local church … so shame on us if we don’t take advantage of this and do everything we can.
“Even if we do 95 percent wonderfully, but the last 5 percent of this we stumble like a marathon race, we will lose the race. Our church has gone above and beyond and I couldn’t be prouder, but we want to finish well. We’re not backing out on finish well.”
Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, is encouraging churches from around the U.S. to send DR teams to come help.
Jones described immediate needs for electricians, HVAC technicians, plumbers, carpenters and drywallers, but also emphasized anyone who can come will be needed as much of the ministry needs are not just physical, but spiritual and emotional.
“Emotions in the town are still really raw, and there is still opportunity to minister there,” Jones said. “A lot of it is just sitting and listening, just letting them tell their story and caring for them. The opportunities for ministry are great.”
Brown said the church’s relief ministry has open many doors for Gospel ministry and encourages churches to consider sending teams to help the community in what will be a long process.
“The church’s credibility is through the roof right now and it gives us a great and grand opportunity for the Gospel and for people to be receptive to it,” Brown said.
“I hope that everyone will pray about coming out because we need laborers. We thank anyone that has prayed or given in any fashion, but now I’d ask everyone to just pray about coming and giving a week or a day to labor. We need all the help we can get because we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and every single person who might help might help us get there a little quicker.”
Those interested in assisting in Waverly can make arrangements to participate by sending information — including the teams they have available and the dates of their availability — to any of the following e-mails: [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected].