As late July floodwaters in Kentucky claimed lives and destroyed property, Florida Baptist disaster relief teams have taken the Living Water to individuals still reeling from the storm’s fury.
In mid-August two Florida Baptist disaster relief units joined a Kentucky Baptist team and a Mississippi Baptist team, working out of Big Creek Baptist Church in Hazard, Kentucky, to offer help, healing and hope amid the heartbreak.
Led by J.D. James, from Central Baptist Church in Aucilla, the Florida Baptist clean up and recovery team donned protective suits and dug their way through the mud to help homeowners with as much recovery as possible.
“Our clean up and recovery team helped a National Guard member’s family mud out his home, and he spoke about how he placed his family on top of a hill across the road as they watched their house being inundated with rising water,” James said.
“They feel blessed,” he said, “as they recognize that their neighbors down the road lost their lives that same night.”
The National Guard and other groups saved residents from treetops, rooftops, hilltops and rushing streams, using Black Hawk helicopters, boats and ropes tied to trees to pull their way down riverbanks to rescue trapped individuals.
“Our team has been told so many stories from the residents here about miraculous rescues and tragic loss of life that it is extremely difficult to recount.
“Our clean up and recovery team has responded to many flooded areas over the years, but I can truly say we have never heard the tremendous amount of heartbreak and heroic stories as we have this time,” James said.
Meeting and ministering to the weary and traumatized homeowners, disaster relief volunteers find ways to share the hope of the gospel amid the seeming hopelessness of the moment. In the recent deployment to Kentucky, James reported that at least one flood victim, Kenny, made a profession of faith. The Florida Baptist team prayed with Kenny and presented him with a Bible signed by each volunteer. A local church will connect with Kenny for ongoing support and discipleship.
The team of eight volunteers represented seven Florida Baptist churches. In addition to Central Baptist Church in Aucilla, team members hailed from Madison Street Baptist Church in Starke, Trinity Baptist Church in Keystone Heights, Kingsley Lake Baptist Church in Starke, Callahan First Baptist Church in Callahan, North Oak Baptist Church in Citrus Springs and Fellowship Baptist Church in Madison.
The seven churches represent four Florida Baptist associations: Middle Florida Baptist Association, Nature Coast Baptist Association, New River Baptist Association and Northeast Florida Baptist Association.
“We come from various areas to serve. If you look and seek, you will find brothers and sisters willing to come alongside each other to serve Him,” James said.
As James’ team returned home, additional Florida Baptist disaster relief teams arrived in Kentucky to continue the ministry efforts. Clean up and recovery operations will likely be ongoing for several more weeks, possibly longer. David Coggins, state director for Florida Baptist disaster relief, said that as many as eight to ten Florida Baptist teams may respond to help with Kentucky relief efforts.
In addition to the Kentucky relief efforts, other Florida Baptist disaster relief teams now have arrived in Missouri to assist with flood recovery there.
“The outpouring of support from the Christian community is lifting the spirits of this and other communities in the affected areas, and it is rewarding to be a small part of this truly amazing team,” James said.