Archives For 2015 tornadoes

Illinois_map_AprilCOMMENTARY | Lisa Sergent

Just outside my office door, there is a large map of Illinois with each county outlined and labeled. Every county has been shaded in to represent the percentage of the population who are Southern Baptist.

When I heard about the April 9 tornado outbreak and where it occurred, my thoughts immediately went to the map. The northern part—the region most affected by the storms—has counties in white (no IBSA churches), dark green (one IBSA church), and a particular shade of orange denoting that just 0.5 to 0.99% of the population belongs to an IBSA church.

Disaster Relief spring callouts like the one in northern Illinois after the tornadoes are nothing unusual. In April 2013, chaplains and mudout teams responded to the Peoria area after widespread flooding. March 2012 saw a tornado strike Harrisburg, destroying homes and businesses. Chaplains and chainsaw teams were called in to comfort and to clear debris.

But this ministry opportunity is different. The previous spring callouts in our state have served areas with a much higher ratio of IBSA churches. These most recent tornadoes touched the northern part of Illinois, the part with little Southern Baptist or other evangelical presence.

In Ogle County, where the town of Rochelle is located, there is just one IBSA church to serve the county’s 52,000 people. In DeKalb County, home to the Fairdale community that was devastated April 9, there are just three IBSA churches with fewer than 300 resident members. DeKalb’s total population is 105,000.

Illinois Baptists now have an opportunity to reach out to the unreached in new ways. Chainsaw teams from four associations of churches—Fox Valley, Quad Cities, Sinnissippi, and Three Rivers—worked in Rochelle the weekend after the storms. Disaster Relief coordinators monitored the situation in Fairdale, but found it was completely destroyed, leaving nothing large enough for chainsaw crews to remove.

Not only were IBSA Disaster Relief teams at work, but teams from other evangelical denominations also were on the scene. Their presence is something new for an area that consists mainly of Catholic and mainline Protestant churches.

Illinois Baptists have a unique opportunity to share Christ’s love in a unique time of need. My prayer is that we take this opportunity to minister to the peoples in these and surrounding communities, sharing Christ—perhaps, as never before—in this region of our state.

Lisa Sergent is director of communications for the Illinois Baptist State Association and contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

Raymond and Betty Kramer hug each other after being interviewed by the media about their experience in a Rochelle, IL restaurant's storm cellar while a tornado was on the ground above them. This photo was taken during and interview  in the town of Fairdale, IL, which was completely destroyed by tornado April 9.

Raymond and Betty Kramer hug each other after being interviewed by the media about their experience in a Rochelle, IL restaurant’s storm cellar while a tornado was on the ground above them. This photo was taken n the town of Fairdale, IL, which was completely destroyed by tornado April 9.

HEARTLAND | Lisa Sergent

Raymond Kramer and his wife, Betty, were driving home from Rockford, Ill.,

when it started to hail. As the icy stones got larger and came down harder, they started to look for shelter. Then, to his west, Kramer saw a funnel cloud on the ground.

The funnel cloud was part of a tornado outbreak that hit northern Illinois April 9. It caused destruction in town of Rochelle and completely destroyed the small community of Fairdale, where two people died.

The Kramers, members of Grace Fellowship in Ashton, took shelter in Grubsteakers Restaurant, where “the owner herded us through the kitchen, out the door, and we made a u-turn down into a good old-fashioned storm cellar,” Kramer told the Illinois Baptist.

When the tornado had passed, they tried to open the cellar doors, but found them blocked by debris. The back dining room and pantry walls had fallen on top of the doors. And the restaurant owner’s SUV had been lifted up by the tornado and was sitting on top of the walls.

Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief workers survey damage after a tornado outbreak in northern Illinois April 9.

Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief chainsaw teams were on the scene two days after a tornado outbreak in northern Illinois April 9.

The Kramers prayed with 10 fellow survivors as they waited for first responders to arrive, which they did in 30 minutes. However, it took two hours for responders to free them. Sitting in the dark with only cellphone flash lights and, later, a light passed down by the responders, the Kramers prayed with the group.

One woman was crying, and as his wife comforted her, Kramer prayed. “I pray aloud in situations like this,” he said.

To help everyone relax, Kramer said he started singing, “’I’ll be there to pick you up in the wheel barrow honey, after about a quarter past eight….’ Then, I sang, ‘Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be will be…’”

Since the tornado, Kramer has been interviewed by local and national media who have called the 81-year-old and his wife heroes. “We’re not heroes,” he said. “We’re just servants of the Lord Jesus Christ…I had the joy of the Lord down there. I prayed to my God and I knew He would protect us.”

IBSA Disaster Relief participated in clean-up efforts after the tornado outbreak. Chainsaw teams from four associations of churches—Fox Valley, Quad Cities, Sinnissippi, and Three Rivers—worked at three homes in Rochelle.

Rex Alexander, Disaster Relief Coordinator said the callout “was a good opportunity for northern teams to work in their own backyard.”

To learn more about Disaster Relief ministry, go to www.IBSA.org/dr or call (217) 391-3142.

Rochelle_recovery_1

Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers worked over the weekend at three homes in Rochelle, Ill., one of the northern Illinois communities hit by a tornado April 9.

By Lisa Sergent

Rochelle, Ill. | Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were busy Saturday removing trees and limbs downed by last week’s tornadoes in northern Illinois.

Chainsaw teams from four associations of churches—Fox Valley, Quad Cities, Sinnissippi, and Three Rivers—worked at three homes in the town of Rochelle, where 45-50 homes were damaged April 9.

Rex Alexander, Disaster Relief Coordinator for the Illinois Baptist State Association, said the response to the disaster was “almost overwhelming.”

“Streets were clogged with the cars of volunteers and the owners of damaged homes were inundated with volunteers and disaster relief teams from all over the state, as well as from other states. One home across the street from our team had over 50 volunteers working with them,” he noted.

Alexander said the town of Fairdale has not yet been opened to volunteers, but he is continuing to monitor the situation for future opportunities. However, he doesn’t expect there to be much work for IBSA volunteers to do. “If your house has been downed and is gone, you don’t go cut up trees.” The EF-4 tornado that hit Fairdale reportedly affected every home or structure in the unincorporated community—40 to 50 buildings. Two people were killed during the storm.

Rochelle_recovery_2For the response in Rochelle, Alexander wanted to publicly acknowledge the assistance of Brad Pittman, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Davis Junction. “He gave us most of his day on Friday and introduced us to homeowners he knows in the area that we were able to go in and help.”

Many recent disaster relief callouts have been in the southern part of the state. Alexander said this callout “was a good opportunity for northern teams to work in their own backyard.”

The Illinois teams finished their work Saturday afternoon.

A disaster relief training weekend is scheduled this Friday and Saturday, April 17-18, at Streator Baptist Camp. Online registration is closed, but anyone interested in participating can call Alexander’s ministry assistant, Alexis Dumire, to register over at (217) 391-3142.

The Illinois Baptist State Association has nearly 1,000 Southern Baptist member churches and missions in Illinois. IBSA’s main office is in Springfield and it was established in 1907. Southern Baptists operate the nation’s third-largest disaster relief organization, behind only the Red Cross and Salvation Army. To learn more about IBSA Disaster Relief, visit http://www.IBSA.org/dr.

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