My Alabama, “the great state” as I affectionately call it has been pretty much devastated. Wednesday evening searching for news I pulled up James Spann who when I was a teen was the local weather man for WBRC Channel 6 in Birmingham. The ticker at the bottom said there were 7,000 others who were watching. It was an erie sense of fear for the state, awe at the power of the storms and comfort at Spann’s knowledge, mutual love for Alabama and reporting skills. But that did not keep the massive storms from hitting.
The news is still coming in but it is disturbing. As of this morning (Saturday, April 30), there are 340 confirmed dead in the region (254 of those in Alabama). But that number is still climbing. In Tuscaloosa along there are an additional 454 reported missing persons. In Hackleburg and areas of Cullman and Phil Campbell they can’t even get in to access the total damage, so obviously there will be more lives lost in those places. NOAA reports that 211 tornados were on record in the region on Wednesday and Thursday. The one that hit Smithville, MS, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, AL was an F5 with a width somewhere between a half mile to a mile and a half!
The roll call of cities in “The Great State” sounds more like a simple listing of all the cities in north Alabama than a list of places hit. Arab, Birmingham, Cullman, Cordova, Cottondale, Hackleburg, Moulton, Pleasant Grove, Phil Campbell, Tuscaloosa - just to name a few off the top of my head.
Unbelievable, Just unbelievable.
Now for the good news: I can’t begin to count the number of phone calls and emails I’ve gotten the last four days of people wanting to know who was doing something, where to send support, where to send workers. The answers seems ultimately to be pretty simple - where ever disaster struck the people of God started immediately picking up the pieces and serving! It’s become indicative of “us” - with no national headquarters and no hierarchy - we are people who start giving out cups of water, sandwiches, cloths, housing, cleanup crews and support in most any manner needed. For all of our foibles and faults - God’s People shine in a pinch, come together in tragedy and love - just love people who are in “hurt”.
I know my list will be too short but here are some of the churches of Christ I know of providing relief. I’ll start and as you know of others please add to it:
But quickly before that is a list of the sorts of things needed: Paper products, toiletries, non perishable food items, any sort of cleaning supplies, gas, water, generators, furniture. Most every list I’ve seen has said NO CLOTHES. I remember going down to help after the Katrina disaster and seeing an abandoned K-Mart parking lot so full of clothes it looked like a small mountain - good intentions but not needed.
Cottondale, a suburb of Tuscaloosa where Clark Sims preaches. Clark’s number 205.310.3286
Central in Tuscaloosa. The Central building is going to be a total loss. There are children in the area who don’t know where their parents are. Red Cross has set up in their parking lot, Disaster Response is giving out food there too and they are accepting donations and laborers. The preacher is Lee Jamison 205.657.7089 and the college minister is Trae Durden 205.394.2244. If you have not you need to go to http://www.christianchronicle.org/article2159359~Six_students_survive_tornado_inside_devastated_Alabama_church_building and read Bobby Ross's story there.
The Bethel building in Athens was, I understand destroyed. They will be meeting in Hobb Street’s building. Jimmy Clark is the preacher there.
Central in Athens. A group from Donaldson headed by Russ King will be going down Thursday to work along side this congregation. Here is Russ’s report: Five families with children in a trailer park lost everything.We need $2,000 by tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) to help our brothers at Central Church of Christ get these families set up in new housing. Make checks to Donelson Church of Christ and give to me tomorrow at worship, or e-mail or call me (482-3943) to let me know how much you can give. Funds will be administered through the church. In addition, we are loading a truck on Wednesday with furniture, household items, sheets, towels (NO CLOTHES), beginning at 6 pm at Donelson C/C. We may also be loading at Ezell-Harding Christian School on Wed at 2 pm...I am awaiting confirmation. Rural Hill may also be loading a separate truck. Ramiro Alvarez is coordinating and will let me know.
Northport, just outside of Tuscaloosa is taking donations for a relief fund. They are also planning work days. Kerry Richardson is the preacher there and Jeremy Pate is the youth minister - 205-339-6211.
Hackleburg. Poor Hackleburg. The little town of 1500 appears to be a total loss. Hackleburg is the home of our friend and brother, Sonny James (The Southern Gentleman - a title he wears comfortably and humbly). It is about 10 miles from Hamilton. The Hamilton church is serving as a service point, collecting point and starting point for workers. The preacher is Ted Burleson and the youth minister is Ryan Gallagher - 205 921-3232.
When the storms of 1998 came through central Alabama the Sylvan Springs congregation learned to “do disaster relief”. They are not far from the hardest hit area of Birmingham and will be a drop of point and are collecting relief funds. The preacher there is David Courington. Here is part of what David sent out: “The Sylvan Springs congregation plans to accept and distribute help for storm victims in our area. Several of our members homes are damaged, one of our elders house destroyed. There is so much devastation in the Birmingham area, particulary Pleasant Grove and Concord, that it is hard to imagine. Only residents are being allowed in now and it is still difficult to know where to start with trying to help. Our building is fine, but so far we have no electricity. There are many areas in Alabama that were hit just as hard. I spoke with Bro. Dudney at Churches of Christ Disaster Relief a little while ago and he said they were overwhelmed and it would be at least a week before they would be able to get anything to us. If you want to send money, nonperishable food, supplies(No clothes please at this time) you can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our church address for sending funds is: Sylvan Springs Church of Christ, 5445 Birmingport Road, Sylvan Springs, Al. 35118. If you want to contact me by phone you can call my cell at 205-807-4101.”
His son Daniel is the youth minister at the Roebuck Parkway in Birmingham. They are also accepting relief donations. 205.833.1400.
Highland Park in Muscle Shoals opened a relief center 256.381.3811. They will be taking supplies to the affected areas.
Hatton Church of Christ on Highway 101 is offering food, water and clothes.
The Moulton church is allowing their area to be used as a EMA HQ (forms, ID's, badges, assignments, etc.)
Florence Blvd is collecting goods to take next week: Monday, noon - 7pm and Tuesday, 8am -7PM . Collection point their activity building. Specific needs: Gatorade, batteries and flashlights, manual can openers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, hygiene products, infant car seats, baby food, diapers, anything baby related. Pillows, blankets , clothes hangers. Contact: Sylvia Stephenson: 256.366.1913
At Spring Meadows we had a assessment team go down today to take some supplies and see what we could do. A group will be going Monday to lend manual labor. 615.294.1453.
I know this - my list is no where close to complere. I’m guessing pretty much any of the churches of Christ will be doing something.
Then there is Churches of Christ Disaster Relief. These good people purchase items, pack them and when disaster strikes they find a local church to “land a truck” and give the materials to the church to distribute. They only work through congregations and give the items to those churches.
No system is perfect but thank God His people act! Now, add to my little list of venues and outlets that are helping.
*I take full responsibility for any misstakes, omissions or oversights in this piece.