COVID-19 / Disaster Response

When Disaster Response is In Your Neighborhood

Note from Rick Burnette, CBF Domestic Disaster Response Manager — For CBF Domestic Disaster Response to engage disaster recovery sites, three criteria must be met:

  1. There must be the presence of local CBF congregations, ministry partners and/or CBF Global Missions field personnel who are willing and able to engage in needed response
  2. The disaster-affected CBF state/regional organization must request some form of CBF Disaster Response assistance (e.g., financial, technical, volunteers)
  3. The CBF Global Missions Disaster Response Committee must approve such engagement

Our CBF disaster response approach is grassroots-focused, honoring the capacity of local churches and CBF state/regional organizations to serve disaster-affected communities. 

The following is a brief case study that describes how Trinity Baptist Church of Seneca, S.C., and CBF of South Carolina effectively used local assets to respond to the April 13 tornado that devastated portions of the upstate of South Carolina.

By Tony Vincent

In the early morning hours of Monday, April 13, the day after Easter, an EF-3 tornado with winds of over 160 miles per hour did significant damage to the neighborhoods right around Trinity Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.  While only one life was lost and very few injuries occurred, over 170 homes within a two-mile radius of our church building have been deemed destroyed, with hundreds more receiving substantial damage. Other than a leaning steeple, multiple trees downed, and other minor damages, our facility was spared significant damage.

DR-2Because of our proximity to the hardest hit neighborhoods, Trinity quickly became a hub of support for this battered community. As initial assessments began and as neighbor checked on neighbor, needs for storm cleanup and living essentials as power was being restored to our town were identified as priorities. Expressions of concern and support immediately came pouring in.

Teams armed with chainsaws, rakes, large earth-moving equipment and recreational vehicles went out into the community to help neighbors with recovery.  Local churches, non-profits, civic clubs, and even local businesses found ways to meet substantial needs for those most impacted. Meals were prepared and even distributed via recreational vehicles into some of the hardest hit areas.

Neighboring churches, some of which had never partnered together on mission, jumped into ministry with us. One local church provided bags of ice in our parking lot for those without power and we joined with them in distribution and in purchasing of the ice.  Another used our property as a starting point to move into the community in cleanup.

DR-1Local businesses, including some members of our church, saw the need for non-ethanol gas for generators and immediately began distributing hundreds of gallons right across the street from the church, free of charge. Families from our church and other churches even took the dirty laundry of the hundreds of contractors brought into our town to rebuild our electrical infrastructure into their homes to wash, fold, and redistribute, all while attempting to best practice social distancing and taking health precautions due to COVID-19.

CBF of South Carolina quickly stepped in with financial assistance that we were able to put into the hands of neighbors with deep needs from the storm. Other CBF churches reached out to offer assistance and encouragement, and many friends from across the Fellowship gave generously for us to pass along to those affected by the storm.

As we continue the recovery journey one month out from the tornado, we are confident in the ways that God will use us and the many who have joined with us to be the presence of Christ here in Seneca in the wake of the storm.

Tony Vincent serves as the Associate Minister of Trinity Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.

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