Waves of Volunteers Helping Storm-Hit Towns

April 11, 2023 • United States

Volunteers continue serving in Jesus’ Name in Arkansas and beyond.

U.S. Disaster Relief
013622
$
Give

UPDATE, April 17: Please continue praying for the work of North American Ministries after these tornadoes. Samaritan’s Purse continues responding to the devastation caused by EF3 tornadoes in Wynne and Little Rock, Arkansas. We are also now serving in Savannah, Tennessee, to include Hardin, McNairy, and Wayne Counties where another EF3 tornado damaged homes. We have concluded our deployments in Covington, Tennessee; in Indiana; and in Mississippi.

Lorena Tobias had prayed for Mississippians the day after tornadoes hit their towns. Just one week later, as she and three children huddled together in their hall bathroom in Sherwood, Arkansas, she hoped someone was praying for them.

“My husband called from work and said ‘Get in the bathroom. It’s coming your way,’” she said. “It was only seconds before it hit us.”

Arkansas Homeowner Lorena Tobias works alongside first-time volunteer Angie Moore, also an Arkansas resident.

Homeowner Lorena Tobias, right, works alongside first-time volunteer Angie Moore.

The doors to the outside were thrown open by the pressure. Their ears were popping. The shallow roots of her yard’s beautiful oaks made for the most terrifying half minute of Lorena’s life.

“It sounded like a heartbeat,” she said, describing the destructive pulse of the EF3 tornado that struck the afternoon of March 31. “That’s the thing I remember. Like a heartbeat. And loud crashing. The loudest crashing I’ve ever heard.”

The loud crashing was those three oak trees, pulling loose from the ground soaked by days of rain. Two of the timbers caved in corners of the home.

“Thanks to Jesus we are still alive,” she said.

“It sounded like a heartbeat. That’s the thing I remember. Like a heartbeat. Thanks to Jesus we are still alive. And I thank Jesus for all of you.”

The twister was one of dozens of tornadoes spawned by a band of powerful thunderstorms stretching across multiple states on March 31 and the rest of the weekend. Dozens of people were killed.

Angie Moore, left, and her daughter, Brianna, carry logs from a yard in Sherwood, Arkansas.

Angie Moore, left, and her daughter, Brianna, carry logs from a yard in Sherwood, Arkansas.

Samaritan’s Purse quickly deployed disaster relief teams to Arkansas, Tennessee, and Indiana. We were already working in Mississippi where earlier tornadoes brought destruction from the Mississippi Delta to Amory, a community near the Alabama state line.

Hundreds and hundreds of volunteers have responded across five locations (and now a sixth and seventh—see the update at bottom). They are hard at work cutting up countless large trees, cleaning debris from yards, and providing a ministry of presence to homeowners whose lives were rocked in the mere seconds that a twister takes to destroy so much.

VOLUNTEER AFTER THE TORNADOES

Arkansas residents Angie Moore and her daughter Brianna are just two volunteers who’ve been out serving. They helped at Lorena’s home. “We talked about going to Mississippi to volunteer there,” said Angie, a first-time volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse. When tornadoes hit her home state, though, she and Brianna decided to help their neighbors in Sherwood. “It’s been very meaningful to help these families, to represent Christ to them and to be able to do that with my daughter.”

Homeowner Rey Tobias helps volunteer Ken Perry place tarp on the roof ahead of yet another storm.

Homeowner Rey Tobias helps volunteer Ken Perry place tarp on the roof ahead of yet another storm.

Brianna said that most of her work involved cleaning up branches and debris, but she hoped to learn more advanced skills on future deployments. The most important part of being a volunteer on this trip, she said, has been seeing the impact of selfless labor on the people they help: “I’ve learned that you can spread the Gospel through helping others. People you didn’t know until just a few minutes before.”

The Help of “Strangers”

The idea of strangers showing up to help took some adjustment for Lorena and her husband Rey. They were admittedly suspicious of our intentions when we offered to help them. They said they’d been warned by other families to be wary of work crews and of being the target of scams.

Young volunteers Kara Ivy, left, and Mena Perry team up to get a heavy log rolling from fallen oak.

Young volunteers Kara Ivy, left, and Mena Perry team up to get a heavy log rolling from fallen oak.

But from the moment our assessors arrived to the time our team completed the dismantling of the large oaks on the home and yard, the Tobiases grew in confidence that our volunteers were there simply to serve them as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

“I’ve learned that you can spread the Gospel through helping others. People you didn’t know until just a few minutes before.”

“I thank Jesus for all of you,” Lorena said after our team presented the couple with a special Billy Graham Study Bible signed on the inside covers by the volunteers. “I don’t know what we would have done. We would still have trees on our house. I thank God for you.”

Right on Time in Tennessee

Within hours of the storm, Samaritan’s Purse was performing assessments near Little Rock, Arkansas; in Covington, Tennessee, north of Memphis; and in Sullivan County, Indiana.

MEETING PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL NEEDS. Chaplains pray with a homeowner in Covington as volunteers cut up a tree in order to tarp her roof.

Meeting physical and spiritual needs: Chaplains pray with a homeowner in Covington as volunteers cut up a tree in order to tarp her roof.

“It hailed for like a split second. Then it stopped,” said Covington, Tennesee, resident Aleasha Cox who huddled in the bathroom of their mobile home with her 13-year-old son. “The sirens went off afterwards.”

The tornado that leveled many large trees in their community created a mile-wide path across the area. Large trees had fallen around her home. She was thankful that cleanup was the main concern for her and her neighbors.

“God protected us,” Aleasha said. “I remember praying afterwards ‘God please help me. I can’t do this on my own.’”

She heard about Samaritan’s Purse from a friend who told her to call.

“So I called them,” she recounted, watching in amazement as more than a dozen orange-shirted volunteers quickly cut limbs and trunks to be piled up by our skid steer operators. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. My friend said ‘If they said they’re coming, they’re coming.’ And y’all did. Y’all showed up right on time, too!”

Volunteers in Covington help tarp a mobile home before yet another afternoon thunderstorm rolls in.

Volunteers in Covington help tarp a mobile home before afternoon thunderstorms roll in.

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

English
Quantcast