By Vicki Brown
(ABP) – Various Baptist disaster-relief groups began mobilizing chainsaw teams and feeding units May 12 to assist victims of deadly tornadoes that tore across the Midwest and Southeast Mother’s Day weekend.
The storms claimed the lives of at least 22 people, including 15 in Missouri, six in Oklahoma and one in Georgia.
Among the dead in Missouri was a former volunteer worship leader at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin. Rick Roundtree, 52, and three family members – his wife, Kathy, 47, son, Clayton, 13, and mother-in-law, Ruby Bilke, 76 -- were killed near Racine, Mo., May 10 as they traveled to a wedding. Roundtree had completed interim work at the church on May 4.
The Missouri Baptist Convention has a handful of chainsaw units in the area, according to disaster-relief coordinator Rick Seaton. “We are planning to send a head cook, but we don’t know how involved we will be yet,” Seaton said. “We’re still trying to coordinate with the Red Cross.”
The disaster team from Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association has sent a feeding unit.
According to the Baptist Messenger, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief has two feeding units in place. One has been set up in Miami, Okla., near the hard-hit town of Picher. Six people were killed there, and the tiny town was virtually wiped off the map.
Another Oklahoma Baptist unit has been stationed at Albion, in the southeastern part of the state.
One person was killed when a tornado touched down near Dublin, Ga. Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief has sent volunteers to three locations -- Douglas County, Wrightsville and Macon. Clean-up and recovery, feeding and childcare units, and shower trailers are among the units dispatched, according to Eddie Oliver, communications specialist for the Georgia Baptist Convention.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has not yet responded but plans to do so, according to Charles Ray, CBF’s national coordinator for disaster relief. The Fellowship normally waits 72 hours for utility companies to declare affected areas as safe.
“We are not first responders. We are not set up as feeding units,” Ray said. “We have been in contact with Missouri and Oklahoma people to check on CBF-supporting churches.”
The National Weather Service notes that 819 tornadoes have been reported since January, making 2008 the most active tornado season, to date, in a decade.