How to Help Victims of Natural Disaster

An important update for locals:   Ider Baptist Church will accept donations for the Moore, OK area through June 8th. The Ministry Center on Dogwood Drive across from the church will be the drop-off location. PLEASE DO NOT BRING CLOTHES. Items we will be accepting are:  diapers, shovels, boots, batteries, flashlights, chain saws, bar oil, gas cans, gloves, safety glasses, garbage bags, bottle water, tarps, snacks, toiletry items and anything of this nature that would be helpful. (See post below) These items need to be in NEW OR GOOD CONDITION. Ministry Center hours  are Monday (excluding Memorial Day) through Saturday 9:30 until 2:30. Questions can be directed to our church office at 256-632-2425.  You can also leave a comment and I will be glad to get back with you.


More than once this week – and once is too many – I’ve sent notes to people I care about whose communties have been visited by the horror of tornadoes.  First there was Granbury, Texas where I was privileged to serve Lakeside Baptist Church for a women’s conference and still consider those girls dear friends. Now I’m grieved to the marrow of my bones to learn of the loss of life in Oklahoma where one of our best college friends lives with his family as a professor at OBU.  We also have a church member serving out of the Air Force base in OKC.  We were so relieved to learn they are all safe but our joy was short-lived after hearing of the loss of the darling school children who in just a few short hours would not have been in those school houses but cuddled with parents and loved ones in safe places in and around their homes. God be near. My heart can’t take it.

After the initial shock the first question we ask ourselves in these times is, “How Can I Help?”  Two years and a couple of months ago before our own storm of April 27,  I couldn’t have answered that question but now with a certain degree of experience I can give you a starter list of ways you can best serve those who are suffering.


A word about clothing.  As well-meaning as clothing collection is it was our experience that we were quickly overwhelmed and had no means of storing or processing the massive amounts of bags and boxes that arrived.  While some clothing is needful, no one needs used boy scout uniforms circa 1977 or the cast-off’s from the last Ugly Christmas Sweater Party or a cd of 101 fart noises mixed in a box of mis-matched shoes. (All things received in our own ministry center.  But on second thought the fart cd made us laugh wildly in a time when we could barely muster a smile.)  Please don’t read this as ingratitude but think practically and give in the same manner.  Work pants and shirts.  Clean socks.  New underwear.  Thick work gloves.  All great choices.


Batteries:  Yes and Amen.  We had to drive miles and miles to a store with electricity only to find the battery supply wiped clean.  C and D and the big square flashlight batteries are most needed.

Flash Lights:  Self-explanatory.

Filled Gas Containers:  If you are local to the affected areas then don’t underestimate the value of a 5 gallon container filled with fuel to families working to clean up their homesites and run generators.  If you are taking supplies in, take empty containers to be filled and distributed there.

Disposable Ice Chests/Coolers:  In our area a local ice company parked freezer trucks with ice available for free but if you’ve lost everything or are without electricity you need multiple coolers.  These disposable versions were gold to us.

Non-perishable Food:  Think peanut butter or canned soups/spaghettis, etc that can be put in a metal pan and heated on a grill.  Juice boxes and packaged crackers are great for kids.  Long term people will have to stock pantries from scratch so that’s when canned vegetables, dried beans, cooking oil, sugar, etc. will become more needed.  Check with any local churches that are feeding stations and see what groceries they need to prepare meals.  Some of them may have a generator and the ability to cook.

Sunscreen/Chap Stick and Bug Spray:  I’ve never seen worse sunburns than on those spending extended days outside.  And outside also equals bugs.  It’s the simple things.

First Aid:  With hard work and injury comes scrapes, cuts, blisters etc.  One of our most useful gifts from family was a well-stocked first aid kit with band aids, Neosporin, peroxide, bandages and adhesive tape to name a few.

Tarps:  Many homes are damaged if not destroyed and need tarps to cover roofs, etc. until insurance adjusters can arrive.  There are never too many tarps.

Large Black Trash Bags:  A must have for clean up

Chainsaw Fuel/Bar Oil:  Luke had to buy a new chain saw because he burned ours up in the first day of clearing.  We were grateful for fuel and bar oil.  Also, if you are feeling very generous, send chain saws.  They are practically disposable when used hour upon hour.

Camp Stoves/Coleman Fuel/Grill Propane:  Remember again many standing homesites will be without electricity for many days.  When we could finally get meat  we cooked on a grill until the power was restored. (13 days – ugh)

Sleeping Bags, Blankets and Pillows:  People and families sleeping in shelters need bed linens.  These were in high demand.

Rakes, Shovels, Yard Equipment: Self-explanatory

Cleaning supplies:  Disinfectants, bleach, mops, brooms, shop rags, etc.  Many standing buildings/homes are completely coated inside with dirt from blown out windows and doors.  We had to wash walls and basically disinfect everything in our house from all the dirt and debris that blew through it.

Rubbermaid Containers:  Those sorting through belongings need somewhere to store them.  More gold.

Water:  Bottled water was good but plentiful for us.  If you are local and have means to transport it in then by all means do. However, if you wanted to fill a trailer and take it in from outside then use the space with something more scarce.

Diapers/Formula/Baby Food:  Huge need.  Remember, no electricity

Animal Food:  Because dogs and cats get hungry too.

Hygiene Products:  Toothpaste – we brushed in bottled water until the running water was on again.  And deodorant.  Lots of deodorant.  I’ve never felt so stinky in my life.

Femine Products:  Let’s just say it’s no fun time to endure the curse.  Stupid Eve.

Paper Towels and toilet paper:  Because wiping never goes out of style.

Towels and Wash Cloths:  Remember bathing may be limited to bottled water and a wash cloth and bar soap.  You will never feel more equipped to survive a zombie apocolypse than after living a couple of weeks without hot running water.  I’m pretty sure I can live through anything now.


If you are local to the area then your opportunities for ministry will vary slightly from work groups.  You will be able to mobilize with faith and service agencies more long term while others need more focused tasks.  I will try to give ideas for both.

Food:  One thing I did not realize until our own tornado was that Red Cross Meals were actually prepared by the Southern Baptist Mobile Kitchens and packaged in Red Cross containers.  These two agencies worked beautifully together here and I’ve never been more proud to be a Baptist Girl.  If you are local and can volunteer to either deliver meals or be a distribution point for those you will find yourself all the ministry you can handle.

As wonderful as the Red Cross Meals were, it takes them a few days to be mobilized.  This is where the local church is a manifestation of Jesus.  In this area, our dear friends at Chestnut Grove Church were closer to the affected areas and so we joined forces and cooked and served meals from there.  They powered up with a generator and you’ve never seen a group of people just flat out get it done in Jesus’ Name.  If there was ever a shortage of volunteers from the neighboring churches I didn’t know it.  Devastated people came.  And they ate.  And they were filled – physically and spiritually.

Another moment I have to relive again.  There was a day early on when Luke and I were working at our own home clearing and boarding and tarping.  I remember being tired to my bones and just plain weary at the enormity of what had happened.  It was about then a group of children from our local Christian school pulled into the drive in back of pick up truck.  They had made sandwiches and had bags of chips, etc. along with coolers of cold drinks.  They were simply driving along seeking to bless people as they worked at their homesites.  One little boy opened his cooler and pulled out an ice cold Dr. Pepper.  If you know me, you know Dr. Pepper completes me and so to be offered this ice cold love was more than I could take in. I cried and looked straight in that child’s eyes and told him that Jesus used him to refresh me and remind me that He sees and cares about the trouble of His children.  That darlin’ thing looked so proud of himself.  I will never forget it and I certainly hope he doesn’t either.  Our small thing can be someone else’s everything.  When seeking to serve someone, it doesn’t have to be major to be meaningful.  A glass of water in His Name – or a soda in this case – will most assuredly satisfy many a thirst.   If you have children who want to be of help, this is such a great way to let them feel they are needed.

There was also a man, wife, and his children who drove down from Missouri to travel our roads with a small grill in the back of the truck who – get this – set up in front of our homes and grilled us a fresh hamburger because they wanted us to have a hot meal.  It was only a short couple of weeks that Joplin was hit and I have no doubt they ministered to their own in just the same way.  Just when you think there is no hope for humanity you see the best of us emerge.


Work Groups

If you can not deploy immediately do not despair.  There will be work for weeks and months and years from now.  Our church has been the honored host of work groups from 2011 until present who are still coming to help rebuild homes that have not been completed until now.  In the immediate days many hands are needed to help families go through the debris of homes and help them locate something, anything they can recognize from their lives and aid in general clearing/cleaning.  As time passes the efforts will become more focused on rebuilding.  The most important thing you can do is contact the Red Cross or if you are affiliated with a church – your denomination to learn of relief efforts and the locations from which they are based.  Many churches and relief agencies will be hosting and/or coordinating groups into the area.  Showing up is good but having a plan and a homebase of operations from someone local who can best direct your efforts is better.



There are many of us whose gift will be financial and by all means, if that is what the Lord impresses upon you then do it abundantly.  If I were to give to an organization I would select the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief or the American Red Cross.  There is an area on both sites to designate your gift.  Also, there are many churches in the area who are doing vital work that can be in the best situation to evaluate needs and administer financial aid.  We were blessed with many substantial donations and it liberated us to buy supplies for building projects and provide financial assistance for uninsured families among many other things.  The best thing I know to tell you is to google area churches and make a few calls to determine the ministry most prepared to faithfully administer the gifts.  I believe by faith no reputable minister of the gospel will receive your donations if they are not equipped to see them distributed properly.

This is certainly no exhaustive list but maybe it is something to get you started in your desire to serve those suffering in the aftermath of a natural disaster.  If you have other ideas please feel free to add to these suggestions in the comments.  Above all, pray for these.  Pray comfort for those who have lost loved ones.  Pray shelter and provision for those who have lost homes and possessions.  Pray endurance for many long days ahead.  Pray Jesus when it seems He is nowhere to be found.  Perhaps what I learned most is that during these times of crisis when our faith is its most vulnerable, God is as close as a Dr. Pepper.  The suffering may not see Him, but they can certainly know what He looks like when we love like He loves.

I want to say thank you again to all those who sacrificially gave of your time and resources and who continue to do so for our area in North Alabama.  We are grateful.  We are changed.


Ever After

Once upon a time a man had an inspiration. He would build a home for his family in a little pine thicket where calamity could not find them.

And so he bravely blazed a trail through the lovely woods…..



….where at path’s end he would lay a cornerstone upon deep bedrock.



Daily he walked this small piece of earth feeling the acceptance of the trees.  In return for his love they offered shelter.  Refuge.



As the house took shape, the forest embraced the man and through every window whispered a promise to his family: We will be your peace.




And then the unthinkable happened.  The calamity from which the man had hidden found him and paid a furious visit. The Gentle Wood resisted this unwelcome guest but the swirling disaster proved too great.  The pines crashed to the ground with great regret.  We are sorry we weren’t stronger.  

The man and his family grieved.  The green was gone.  Refuge had given way to vulnerability.  They were now exposed.  Unsafe. 



A few lone sentinels remained on the other side of the glass in honor of those too aged to bend.  A remnant. 



Gone was the shelter.  The man’s peace was stolen…or so it was believed.

As the man worked to restore the much greater loss of those around him, purpose replaced self-pity.  Pain loosened its choking grip.  Though justified, his disappointment kneeled at the feet of perspective.  It bowed upon hallowed ground.



The man surveyed his own home place, searching for new covering.  It was not to be found.  Rather, his awareness was drawn downward.  Underneath.   To the foundation.

The foundation had saved his family’s life.

Though invisible, unbending.  Though unlovely, stable.  Because the wise man chose well his building place, when the winds came and blew and beat against his house, it proved steadfast.  Though trees swayed, though the earth gave way, the cornerstone remained.  The family found refuge until the calamity was overpast. Not in the trees, but in the Rock.


Though saved, this season of unnatural disaster threatened a cruel epoch for the man.  Time, however, came to his defense and did not stand still nor give destruction rule. Time destroyed evil’s intent by doing nothing more than what it knows best –  it passed.

And days grew brighter.

They are bright.

It is with joy the man treasures his fruitful vine, his olive shoots.  With deep respect he regards the remnant whose budding branches embrace the return of the singing ones. It is with hope the man repairs, rebuilds, and places new growth into his beloved ground.  It is in faith he finds true refuge in Who lies beneath.


And it is in this manner the man and his family continue to dwell.


Happily, safely, ever after.




In honor of those lives lost and changed forever on April 27, 2011 and in deep gratitude to those thousands who have come and continue to come to the rescue.





The Generous Man Gets Snacks

Hello from the beautiful Gulf Coast!  We are sitting in a sa-weet condo with hearts full after spending the last couple of days visiting with some very special friends in Pensacola.  I’ve gotten several emails asking how the recovery process is going here and so allow me to give you a quick update as well as brag on a specific church who has gone way above and beyond in serving our community.

First let me tell you why we are here.  Very soon after the storms (our brains are fried so we can’t remember the point of first contact), the Lord sent two amazing people into our lives named Ray and Mary Ann McKnight. God placed a heavy burden for our people on these two and they championed an event in their own city to serve those who have lost so much in North Alabama.  Ray and Mary Ann are members of Pine Summit Baptist and together with their congregation they planned an auction comprised of donated goods whose proceeds were 100% designated to our ministry center.  Ray invited our family to be present for the weekend and Luke to speak Sunday morning to ‘put a face to the name’ so to speak for these people who have worked so hard on our behalf.  We also had the joy of meeting the brand new pastor and his wife, Donny and Shay, who had only taken the church three short weeks before.  After all the tallying was complete, this labor of love raised ALMOST  $13,000 to aid our area in recovery.  May the Lord be praised!  Thank you Ray and Mary Ann.  Thank you, Pine Summit.  We are blessed to call you friends and co-laborers in the gospel.

So what happens to that money?  About one month prior to the tornadoes, our church purchased a building located directly across the street that had once been a day care center.  We felt like the purchase was ordained because on the day of auction, there were no other bidders and we bought the building at the opening price.  We envisioned using it primarily as a youth facility with one of the large rooms dedicated to a food pantry.  Little did we know those plans would soon change.  The storms came and before the winds had scarce quit blowing provisions from generous people starting pouring in from the midwest all the way down to Florida.  They came in car trunks, they came in tractor trailers.  But however they came, they came ALOT. We first started unloading these things into our fellowship hall adn quickly realized that arrangement wasn’t going to cut it.  I told Luke, “We’ve got to get the daycare building open and get this stuff over there.”  That was all it took for our people to mobilize.  Our fearless missions director, Judith, took the bull by the horns and along with the tireless efforts of many, many of our church members had the power and water cut on, the building cleaned, and shelving built all within three days.  What was birthed in that time is now known as the “By His Hands” Ider Baptist Ministry Center.  Only God.

With that said, this ministry has become a permanent entity of our church and community and is staffed by faithful volunteers of IBC.  When donations are received they are earmarked for the ministry fund.  Applications are taken from those in our community with many requests but most have to do with some form of home repair.  Many are people recovering from storm damage but we do not hesitate to help the elderly or otherwise disadvantaged person who demonstrates a legitimate need for assistance.  Each request is evaluated and if it is something our men can handle, they purchase the building materials and provide the labor free of charge.  Some projects are too much for us.  If it is not storm related we may hire individuals who can do the work.  If the project is storm related, we refer it to the Long Term Recovery Committee for our county on which our church holds a seat.  It is through this avenue that homes are being rebuilt, more complex repairs are organized, and work groups are assigned to specific families.  It has been a great joy for our church to host many work groups in our parsonage and class room wing of the church when necessary.  Again, where funding is an issue, we provide materials for these groups to complete their assigned projects.  None of this would be possible without the generosity of individuals, churches, and many para-church and corporate entities who have given to the center.

I hesitate to talk about our own personal recovery but y’all are asking and I don’t want to be rude.  We are great.  The roof has been replaced, the porches rebuilt.  I have a front door now and no more broken windows!  The garage doors are in and operational and the sheet rock guys just finished inside.  I made the executive decision to hold off on replacing the floors until after the first of the year because I’m just not emotionally stable enough to deal with that mess during the holidays.  Since Luke is the one replacing the floors, he isn’t complaining one bit.  There is some minor carpentry work to be finished inside and then some painting but for the most part we are almost back on track.  We also have some major yard work to have done since we lost so many trees but that should be happening soon – hopefully in time to sow grass.  Thank you so much for your prayers.  I know  you’ve been interceding for else or we would have lost our ever-loving minds by now.

I taught children’s church a few weeks ago and the lesson happened to be on generosity in giving.  The verse for the day was, “A generous man will prosper .  The one who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)  When I asked the kids what that meant, Ben (one of my favorite kids on this planet) yelled out, “A GENEROUS MAN WILL ALWAYS HAVE SNACKS!”  I amen that interpretation and it will be my prayer for all those who have helped us in Christ’s Name.  May your snacks be abundant. But I will also pray that God will return the relief you have provided upon you one hundredfold.  You have no idea what it means to the people of Sand Mountain.  No idea.

There are many ways in which a donation can be made to our area and in no way am I trying to suggest we are the only group doing a great work.  But since I know you will ask because y’all are just sweet like that, I will provide the information. If you or your organization would like to make a monetary donation to our particular effort, those may be mailed to Ider Baptist Ministry Center, PO Box 278, Ider, AL 35981.  If you have a work group who would like to participate in the rebuilding, please contact Sand Mountain Baptist Association at 256-451-3750.




Next Page »