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Disaster relief teams aid Bootheel Print E-mail
Southeast Missouri took a significant hit on Jan. 27 with ice and snow storms knocking out power and forcing people into warming centers and the homes of friends and fellow church members.

“We were devastated by last week’s ice and snow storm,” Bill Vail, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Poplar Bluff, said in an e-mail response on Feb. 5. “I have heard reports that we received four inches of ice and four or five inches of snow on top of that.

“We have partnered with Samaritan Purse disaster relief team to try and clear away the trees that are down,” he said. “They are working in several counties and sleeping and eating in our building.

“There are also two teams of chaplains from the Billy Graham Association going throughout the area offering counseling and spiritual encouragement,” Vail added. “We still have a long way to go but things are getting better each day.”

Pastor Steve Easterwood reported First Baptist Church, Dexter, offered its facilities to meet the needs of people, too, he said in a Feb. 5 e-mail.

“When the storm first hit we were asked by the local 911 people to feed the AmerenUE [utility] workers in our fellowship hall,” he said. “The company hired a group to cook the meals but by using our fellowship hall they were able to double their cooking capacity. In fact, they are still here.

“We have been feeding up to 900 people twice a day,” he said. “Our church people have been serving the food. Last night the AmerenUE workers presented us a signed safety helmet as a token of their appreciation.

“It’s been quite an experience,” he added. “We have palates everywhere, a huge dumpster out front that they fill every day, and lots of extra people around.”

The volunteer efforts have been good for the congregation, Easterwood said.

“The crisis has given us a chance to get closer as a church,” he said. “Families moved in with each other. Those who had heat provided shelter for those who did not. We had three inches of ice and this was a major disaster for our community.

“My electricity came on only yesterday,” the pastor said. “However, as bad as it was, I’d do it all over again just to experience what God did among us here!”
In Southeast Baptist Association, a Southeast disaster relief kitchen was set up at the Portageville School cafeteria with 20 volunteers preparing about 18,000 meals at one stretch and sending them out to shelters across the area.

“I had a ball; I got to witness to those that were coming through the line to get food,” one volunteer said.

Chainsaw crews came from Joplin, Fort Leonard Wood and other parts of the state and operated out of First Baptist Church of Portageville. A Tennessee chainsaw team joined them.

Still another Missouri Baptist chainsaw operation was setting up in Charleston, along with 50 chainsaw volunteers from Tennessee. Shining Light Mission was set to house the volunteers and meals were to be served at First Baptist Church in Charleston.

Members of First Baptist Church in Senath took care of people affected by the storm, both cooking and serving anyone needing a hot meal.

Another report indicated Louisiana chainsaw teams were helping people in Missouri’s Bootheel, reciprocating for the assistance they received following Hurricane Katrina.

The Missouri disaster relief child care unit was to be dispatched on Feb. 9 to southeast Missouri with plans to begin service the following day and to work in the area for up to two weeks.

Volunteers planned to stay in Temple Baptist Church in Poplar Bluff and set up the child care unit at the coliseum in the town.
 
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.
 
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