As dozens of tornadoes ripped through multiple states this weekend, Assemblies of God churches, districts, networks, and Convoy of Hope are already reaching out to meet needs of victims.
Kentucky suffered the greatest toll from the storms. More than 60 people have been confirmed killed, thousands of structures damaged or completely destroyed, portions of some communities simply “gone,” and many thousands without power or water.
“It’s a warzone and crisis in western Kentucky, no doubt about it,” states Kentucky Ministry Network Superintendent Joseph Girdler. “Thousands of people have lost everything, entire cities gone, and first responders are still searching for survivors.”
At this point, Girdler says no Kentucky AG church has reported suffering any significant damage and they have had no reports of ministers being seriously injured or losing their lives. However, there’s at least one confirmed church member death with a “good number of parishioners who have lost everything.”
Currently, Convoy of Hope as well as Samaritan’s Purse have trucks at the Mayfield (Kentucky) Assembly of God. However, as Convoy of Hope’s National Spokesperson Ethan Forhetz notes, due to the longevity of one tornado, Convoy’s response will be altered.
“This was such a long path of destruction, that Convoy is responding a little differently,” Forhetz states. “We are sending truckloads of relief supplies right to churches and communities along the more than 200-mile disaster zone. Typically, we go to one area and work from there, but this massive track calls for more trucks in more locations so we are approaching it in a different way. Our focus is always residential areas where we can be the biggest help to people who need it.”
According to Forhetz, Convoy of Hope, based in Springfield, Missouri, is sending several truckloads of relief supplies to tornado-ravaged areas in Kentucky and Tennessee. So far more than 100,000 pounds of food, water, tarps, cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies, and additional relief items have been sent. Some of the Kentucky cities that have received — or will soon receive — aid from Convoy include: Mayfield, Princeton, Madisonville, Bowling Green, and Dawson Springs as well as Troy, Tennessee. The Convoy of Hope Disaster Response Team is also headed to Kentucky to give help and hope.
Christ in Action disaster response, headquartered in Virginia, is also headed to help the Kentucky Ministry Network. The ministry has been placed in charge of organizing and mobilizing the volunteer workers and teams that come to assist with the clean-up.
“However, it’s important for volunteers to understand that before we can start assigning teams, we have to wait on insurance adjustors to do their work,” says Denny Nissley, founder of Christ in Action. “With Christmas right around the corner, it’s likely that we won’t be able to assign teams until about January.”
However, those who want to get on the notification list as to when assignments will become available, see the Christ in Action website and click on the volunteer button and fill out the form. When volunteers and teams are ready to be accepted and assigned, they will be notified, but then must connect with the ministry again to finalize arrangements.
“We provide food and a place to put your air mattress,” Nissley says. “We’ll probably be assigning teams at least throughout January and into February.”
Rodney Goodlett, a Kentucky Ministry Network executive officer, says that currently one of the biggest needs for people is heat.
“There are a plenty of people whose homes did not get destroyed or even damaged, but they are without power and they need heat,” Goodlett says. “So we’re working to get heaters — kerosene heaters and hopefully generators — to help heat homes as it will be below freezing tonight and into the 20s (for lows) by this weekend.”
The Spanish Eastern district, led by District Superintendent Manuel A. Álvarez, also has a church located in Mayfield. It too escaped damage. However, the district’s Department of Missions (located in New Jersey) is working to gather food, supplies, and workers to go to the Mayfield church, Pentecostal Church John 3:16, pastored by Mario Mamani. The church is currently being used as a shelter, so supplies are needed, and a number of its members have also lost their homes.
Ronnie Morris, district superintendent of the Arkansas district says that thankfully only a few churches experienced roof damage in his district, though the AG church in Monette did experience significant electrical damages.
“Everybody was able to have church yesterday, according to the information we have received so far,” Morris states.
The Tennessee Ministry Network has not had any reports of churches damaged nor did the Mississippi, Southern Missouri, or Illinois districts have any reports. However, there are reports of AG churches and ministries being a resource to victims and/or preparing teams to respond.
“Organizations and churches are going out of their way to be a help,” Girdler says. “I’m so appreciative of the other networks and districts contacting us . . . when crisis hits, it becomes very clear we are a united family across the USA and it means a lot.”
To help with the relief effort, please visit DisasterRelief.ag.org.