by Ken Akers
As a child growing up in the hills of eastern Kentucky, I came to expect certain things every spring—the hills turning a beautiful green, creeks flooding after spring rains, buttercups and jonquils pushing up through the leaves on the hillsides, and the Kentucky Wildcats competing for yet another national basketball championship. But one thing we never expected was a tornado in the mountains. No one had ever heard of such a thing.
On the evening of March 2, 2012, the unheard of happened. A tornado with winds reaching 125 mph ripped through eastern Kentucky with devastating effects, cutting a swath of destruction across the quiet hillsides. Trees were snapped off or knocked down for miles. Houses and mobile homes were destroyed or moved from their foundations. Lives in the rural area were changed forever. It was a nightmare.
But there was a bright side to the storm. While several deaths were caused by the tornado, it could have been much, much worse. The local television and radio stations had been tracking the weather and gave residents plenty of warning to find shelter. The local emergency organization was prepared for automatic calling to residents, urging them to find a safe place to go. I talked with many people who were simply going to ride out the storm but decided to find safer shelter only moments before their homes were destroyed.
The Free Will Baptist Disaster Response Team (DRT) quickly became involved in recovery efforts. The Collista Free Will Baptist Church, located in the Collista community near Paintsville, Kentucky, was a casualty of the storm. The building took a direct hit and was, for all practical purposes, destroyed. When the pastor and members finally reached the church, only a pile of rubble remained. Most of the building had been blown into the highway beside the church.
To open the road and resume traffic flow, workers from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet brought in heavy equipment to pick up what was left of the building and move it back to the existing foundation. Even that foundation had been affected by the wind, with a major crack extending down one foundation wall.
On March 8, the DRT began the process of evaluating the situation. In cooperation with a number of local Free Will Baptist churches, we created a plan and began to contact volunteers for relief work. After learning from the church pastor that the insurance company had already contracted a company to clean up the debris at the church, we set out to help local residents.
We spent the week cleaning yards and creek banks (remember the spring floods), moving fallen trees from vehicles, and generally helping the devastated community get back on its feet.
I appreciate the great, hard-working volunteers who came from Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. All the volunteers appreciated the Illinois Disaster Response Unit for bringing heavy equipment for tree removal. We also appreciate the local churches of eastern Kentucky for showing their generous support by providing lodging and food. Tom’s Creek FWB Church, Southside FWB Church, Baker Branch FWB Church, their pastors, and members stepped up in a big way.
Everyone came to the aid of their friends and family during this time. I went to a small local grocery store one day to purchase water for the team. When the storeowner found out we were there to help, she gave us the water. While we never want to see devastation like this, it is great to see helping hands extended in love from God’s people.
But that is what we should expect to see.
If you would like to donate to the Collista FWB Church, send contributions to Master’s Men, and we will forward 100% to the church to help with rebuilding. If you would like to be added to our contact list and volunteer for disaster relief efforts the next time a situation arises, go to www.fwbmastersmen.org and sign up, or send an email: email@example.com. You can also donate to the DRT fund to help us help others in the future. Be sure to mark donations appropriately to ensure the funds go where they are designated.
This is only one instance of ongoing disaster response efforts. Volunteers continue to serve those in need across the nation, and for that we say thank you!
About the Writer: Ken Akers is the general director of the Master’s Men Department in Nashville, TN. Contact Ken: Ken@nafwb.org.