North Carolina Baptists on Mission (BOM) disaster relief volunteers began serving on Tuesday (Dec. 14) in Bowling Green, Ky., after four tornadoes hit the state Friday night. In Kentucky, at least 70 people died in the storms, including 12 children.
More than 100 people were unaccounted for as of Tuesday morning, according to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.
One tornado stayed on the ground for more than 200 miles. Tornado reports were made across eight states in the central and southern regions of the U.S. In Bowling Green, winds reached 155 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Fifteen people died in the city.
BOM teams set up a response site at Hillvue Heights Baptist Church, where there are generator and chainsaw teams, a feeding team serving 700 meals every day, a laundry unit and a recovery unit. BOM is an auxiliary of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC).
“We are so thankful that N.C. Baptists can assist the people of Bowling Green as they recover from the recent tornado,” said Tom Beam, BOM disaster relief coordinator. “North Carolina coming to Kentucky is neighbor helping neighbor. Our volunteers are cutting trees off houses, off cars and driveways, and giving hope, all while being the light of Christ.”
Within 48 hours of the tornadoes’ touchdown Friday night, 106 N.C. Baptist volunteers responded to the call for assistance and arrived in Bowling Green. Some plan to stay until Christmas and return soon after.
Neil Brown, a site assessor from Spruce Pine First Baptist Church, is on his third deployment with BOM in three months. He has served with disaster relief for nearly three decades. Monty Rogers, a lead assessor from Pole Creek Baptist Church, is on his second deployment since August. He plans to return to Bowling Green on Dec. 26. Rogers has served with BOM for more than 20 years.
“Disaster relief volunteers are carrying the light of Jesus in a dark time for these communities.” — Todd Unzicker
Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte sent a team to Kentucky this week and has two more teams scheduled to go on Jan. 2 and Jan. 9. Volunteers from Hickory Grove are clearing fallen trees and debris and covering roofs with tarps.
Hickory Grove members have served with BOM for years, said Casey Norkett, the church’s missions pastor. Last Sunday, Hickory Grove Pastor Clint Pressley announced they would be sending teams in whatever capacity was necessary, and by Monday morning, 11 men were on their way to Bowling Green.
“We proclaim the goodness of Christ and show His goodness by loving our neighbor,” Norkett said. “Our members serving the people of Kentucky is a tangible way for us to love those who have lost so much and point them to the hope only found in Jesus.”
A Bowling Green resident named Ally expressed her gratitude to volunteers.
“It’s been amazing – the outpour of support, especially from strangers,” she said. “It’s been really amazing.”
Todd Unzicker, BSCNC executive director-treasurer, traveled to Bowling Green on Wednesday (Dec. 15) to visit residents and volunteer teams.
“Disaster relief volunteers are carrying the light of Jesus in a dark time for these communities,” Unzicker said. “It’s great to see N.C. Baptists, Kentucky Baptists, Send Relief and others working on mission together to serve those devastated by these storms.”
This is BOM’s second trip to Kentucky this year. In March, volunteers responded to flooding in Oneida.
“God has opened a door for us to help in Kentucky, and we want to stay and serve as long as we are needed,” said Richard Brunson, BOM executive director-treasurer.
“As I think of Christmas, I think of all that we have to be thankful for, and I think about people in Kentucky whose lives were so affected by the tornadoes. I am so thankful that N.C. disaster relief volunteers are being used by God to be His hands and feet.”
To volunteer or donate to relief efforts in Kentucky, visit baptistsonmission.org/kentucky-tornadoes. You can also give to the North Carolina Missions Offering to support BOM’s ongoing disaster relief efforts.