Massive cleanup is underway after December floods. Illinois teams put their backs—and hearts—into the work.
When the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) team arrived at the home of an elderly Missouri couple, they were initially received with some hesitancy.
“The couple was tormented with questions about why God did this to them,” said Debbie Porter, a member of First Baptist Church, Galatia, and a IBSA Disaster Relief volunteer for the last 11 years. “Also, other groups had already visited them and left much of the work unfinished. They thought we would be there for an hour and do the same, but we stayed until the job was done—nearly 24 work hours.”
The couple’s home was one of thousands impacted by Christmas floodwaters in communities like Arnold, located just south of St. Louis, as well as in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. Porter and her husband, Butch, were part of a team of 13 DR volunteers from Galatia, Carlyle, Eldorado, Carterville and Hamilton County who answered God’s call to help Missouri homeowners with flood damage.
The team spent a week doing “mud-outs,” a process of debris removal, drywall removal, power washing and sanitizing homes. Equipped with a tractor and a homemade platform, Porter said the team was able to pull out even the heaviest and most water-soaked items.
“We went to the home of a retired Baptist minister who has diabetes,” she said. “The guys removed all of his Bibles and his entire ministerial library, as well as six or seven desks and big filing cabinets, all ruined.”
Along with Illinois, DR volunteers from Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, New Mexico and Nebraska have joined the cleanup effort. Dwain Carter, director of Disaster Relief for the Missouri Baptist Convention, said though the floodwater has receded, the need is still great.
“Since Jan. 1 we’ve had 362 accepted work orders and we’ve completed 202,” Carter said. “We’ve had teams come from multiple states into two different areas of St. Louis, some doing mud-outs and some cooking for the Red Cross.”
But though the work has been messy and difficult, Porter said the Lord is working through the muck.
“We meet and pray with the homeowners, but we also come across people and we’re able to tell them about what we’re doing,” she said. “We are staying at First Baptist Church, Arnold, so we get to tell how the church is providing for us and how it’s a great church to get plugged into.”
Porter said working with DR is both an honor and a blessing and she prays that other Illinois Baptists would consider going through the training and join this important and powerful ministry.
“When we come back to our home church from a mission like this, we are enthusiastic and recharged and eager to recruit others to join with us the next time,” she said. “I want to encourage people to not let age or health restrictions stop them.
“Get the training and go where there is a need. It may be one of the greatest joys in your life. We work around medical issues, taking breaks when we need breaks and we don’t push beyond what we know we can do. There is power in numbers.”
As the work continues and more DR teams come to Missouri to help, Carter said all Southern Baptists are able join in the cleanup effort through prayer.
“We need prayers for safety,” he said. “People have been working here for weeks and are getting tired and they need energy and strength. Also, one of the greatest things is that we’ve had at least five people that I know of accept Christ during this time. Please pray for more opportunities to share God’s love.”
For more information about IBSA Disaster Relief, visit www.IBSA.org/dr or call Rex Alexander, IBSA Disaster Relief Coordinator, at (217) 391-3134.
Kayla Rinker is a reporter living in Missouri.