Disaster Relief Completes Response to Mississippi Tornado

June 30, 2017 • United States
Volunteers pray in David Bailey’s yard where a tornado caused roof damage. David is one of 110 people in Durant, Mississippi, who made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ during the past two months.
Volunteers pray in David Bailey’s yard where a tornado caused roof damage. David is one of 110 people in Durant, Mississippi, who made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ during the past two months.

Teams led more than 100 people to faith in Christ during tornado cleanup in Durant, Mississippi.

As more than 100 people came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ over the past two months in Durant, Mississippi, Pastor Junior Davis called it nothing short of a movement of God.

Elvira Martorello clears fallen tree limbs from David Bailey’s yard during her first deployment as a Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief volunteer.

Elvira Martorello clears fallen tree limbs from David Bailey’s yard during her first deployment as a Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief volunteer.

Pastor Junior’s church, Williamsville Baptist in nearby Kosciusko, housed Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief volunteers during our deployment from May 6 to June 21. We were providing relief to area residents by cleaning up their homes and yards after an April 29-30 tornado. A total of 161 volunteers logged 6,736 hours of storm debris cleanup for 235 homeowners.

Volunteers and Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains reported that 11 of the 110 salvations occurred on June 14. That day three adult daughters of a homeowner being helped by our disaster relief volunteers were saved. Also, five high school students responded to one of our volunteers who shared an evangelistic tract with them. The students were passersby in a neighborhood where our teams were working.

“God works through open hearts,” Pastor Junior said. “The salvations didn’t only occur at the homes where the volunteers were working; some occurred at a gas station or in a café.

“The volunteers and chaplains were faithful to look for opportunities to share the Gospel wherever they went, and the Lord was working in the hearts of those they encountered to be receptive,” Pastor Junior said. “The Holy Spirit has been really moving in hearts.”

Strengthening Bonds as the Family of God

Junior felt prompted by the Lord to reach out to Durant Missionary Baptist Pastor Nathaniel Christian to see how their two congregations could work together to meet needs in the tornado-affected community.

The RRT chaplains had based their trailer at Pastor Nathaniel’s church during our disaster relief response. The chaplains and our volunteers work in tandem to share the Gospel in communities where they are deployed together. So, the team introduced the two pastors whose churches were hosting our ministries.

Nathaniel Christian, pastor of Durant Missionary Baptist Church, and Junior Davis, pastor of Williamsville Baptist Church in nearby Kosciusko.

Nathaniel Christian, pastor of Durant Missionary Baptist Church, and Junior Davis, pastor of Williamsville Baptist Church in nearby Kosciusko.

The churches are located about 18 miles apart in two different counties. The racial makeup of the Durant congregation is predominantly African-American; the Kosciusko congregation is primarily Caucasian.

“There’s still a lot of racial separation in our country and in our community, and I felt burdened to bridge that or at least make a start,” Junior said.

Pastor Nathaniel agreed. “We both know the challenges the area has had to deal with—race relations being one of those challenges,” he said, adding that the area also has struggled economically. “We bonded in our relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ and in our commitment to reaching out to people in His Name.”

On May 24, members of the Kosciusko congregation attended an event for the community hosted by the Durant church.

Members of South Louisville Baptist Church from Louisville, Mississippi, where Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief volunteers helped with tornado cleanup efforts in Spring 2014, traveled an hour to participate in the event. The Louisville church’s pastor, Trent Jaudon, is Junior’s son-in-law.

Since the community event, individuals from the Durant and Kosciusko congregations are forming friendships, including the two pastors. Pastor Nathaniel (Nate) has asked Pastor Junior to be a guest speaker at his upcoming ministry anniversary celebration—20 years as the church’s pastor and 30 years in ministry. The pastors periodically trade text messages to ask each other for prayer, such as while they are preparing sermons.

Helping with the Harvest

“I relate to Nate as a fellow pastor,” Pastor Junior said. “There are a lot of stresses to manage as a pastor, period. After a disaster where 65 percent of your congregation is recovering from damage to their homes, that’s a lot of added stress.

Fallen trees caused extensive roof damage from a tornado in Durant, Mississippi.

Fallen trees caused extensive roof damage.

“We’ve been blessed with 110 new salvations in the Durant area, but I knew that following up with those new Christians plus caring for members of the Durant church as they themselves recover from the storm would be an additional responsibility on Nate’s shoulders.”

So, Pastor Junior and his church’s associate pastors offered to come alongside Pastor Nate and the Durant church’s deacons as they contact new believers. The Durant congregation is currently planning these efforts.

“We want to keep the relationship we’ve formed with Pastor Junior and this congregation,” Pastor Nate said. “It’s one of the greatest things that’s come out of this. I’m so grateful for Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham chaplains for making that happen and so many other things that they’ve done for this community.”

SUPPORT
U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

U.S. Disaster Relief 013622
$

More