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ADEL, Ga. (BP) — Southern Baptists throughout the Southeast have started responding to a deadly storm system that reportedly claimed the lives of at least 19 people from Georgia to Mississippi over a two-day period this past weekend.
Severe weather, which lasted through Sunday night in the region, extended into South Carolina and north Florida. According to the Associated Press, 39 possible tornadoes were reported in the Southeast.
Alabama wasn’t impacted as much as Georgia or Mississippi by the storms, according to Mark Wakefield, disaster relief and chaplaincy ministries strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, but there still are pockets of damage throughout the state. Wakefield said he has heard a report of a retired director of missions in the state whose home was destroyed by the storms.
Disaster relief teams from Elmore and Tuskegee Lee Baptist associations began serving this weekend in local impacted areas. Wakefield says Alabama Baptist volunteers are standing by and prepared to help if needed by other state Baptist conventions in the region.
In Georgia at least seven people died in the small town of Adel and more lost their lives when a twister hit near Albany. Georgia Baptist Mission Board disaster relief leader Stuart Lang says chaplains are heading into the impacted regions of the state today (Jan. 23) as Georgia Baptists begin the process of assessing needs.
“There’s really not much we can do now because counties are still in search-and-rescue mode,” Lang said. “They’re still trying to catch their breath and figure out what happened yesterday.”
Lang says the first unit will likely not arrive in the area until Tuesday at the earliest. He expects that first unit will probably serve in Albany. It will be several days before the volunteers will be able to serve in Adel, one of the hardest-hit locations in the state, because they must wait for approval by the county government. Currently, there is a curfew in the town.
Lang noted chaplaincy will play a large role in Georgia Baptist’s response to the disaster. At least 14 of those who were killed throughout the region were in the state.
Mississippi Southern Baptists have set up a base of operations at Petal Baptist Church in Petal, Miss., outside of Hattiesburg. Forty volunteers are on the ground already providing hope and healing for the region. Mississippi feeding teams are supporting Red Cross efforts and serving through Petal Baptist for a total of 2,500 to 3,000 meals per day.
Don Gann, who directs disaster relief efforts for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, expects Mississippi Baptists to provide meals throughout the week. A team of Louisiana Baptists is also on the way to an impacted region of the state.
Gann noted that William Carey University, a Mississippi Baptist school in Hattiesburg, was hit hard by the storm. Nearly all of its 30 buildings were reported to be damaged. He said that disaster relief teams were available to help the college if needed as well.
To donate to Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief, visit sbdr.org/donate/.