26 tornadoes damage 500+ structures
By Meredith Flynn and Andrew Woodrow
Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) volunteers were in Taylorville the morning after an EF-3 tornado damaged hundreds of structures in the town 30 miles southeast of Springfield. The Dec. 1 storms, rare this late in the year, spawned a record-high number of tornadoes in December—at least 26—and affected several central Illinois communities. The most severe damage was in Christian County, where more than 20 people were injured.
Disaster Relief teams mobilized to Taylorville Sunday, with assessors working to evaluate needs and one chainsaw team already working to remove limbs felled by the storm. Volunteers quickly set up an Incident Command Center at the Christian County Fairgrounds, and teams moved into First Baptist Church, Edinburgh.
Three days after the tornado, the Disaster Relief response continued, with around 35 volunteers serving each day and chaplains ministering to homeowners. One Taylorville resident, Mark Sockel, heard the gospel from Disaster Relief chaplain James Bathon, and responded by putting his faith in Jesus.
He had heard people say they’d been saved, Sockel said, but “I didn’t exactly know what that meant until today.” The Lord was calling him, he said, “and I just picked up the phone today.”
Jan Kragness also serves as a Disaster Relief chaplain. “When we’re here doing Disaster Relief, we want to help you physically,” she said in Taylorville. “But we’ve not done our job if we have not also done something to help you spiritually.”
After Sockel made his decision to trust Christ, the team talked to him about church, Kragness said, telling him “the name above the door of the church is not as important as what’s going on inside it.”
“But he did tell us he thinks he wants to look for a Southern Baptist church because he’d like to do Disaster Relief,” she said.
Teams serving in Taylorville have completed 35 jobs so far. Volunteers are cutting limbs, removing debris, and putting tarps on roofs. For more information about the response in Taylorville, e-mail RespondIBDR@gmail.com. To donate to Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief, go to IBSA.org/dr.