USA (MNN) — Search and rescue efforts are ongoing for over 60 tornadoes that swept through southern states in the U.S. last weekend. At least 20 people were killed, a death toll in one weekend that surpassed the number of tornado deaths from all of last year combined — 2016 only saw 17 twister-related deaths the whole year. It’s also the highest tornado death toll the month of January has seen since 1969, according to The Weather Channel.
Kellie Scholma with World Renew says, “We have a partner in Mississippi with a community that we’ve worked with in Hattiesburg, and a tornado went through there. They are actually still recovering from a flood from last March and some of the same homes that were really badly damaged by that flood were hit again by this tornado. We were talking to them this morning and the women we spoke with said it is the worst she has ever seen. It was like a bomb just went off, homes were totally destroyed.”
Several tornadoes formed early in the morning when people are most easily taken off-guard and unprepared to get to shelter. Many survivors lost their homes. Some were left with just the clothes on their backs.
World Renew is currently in touch with ministry partners in Mississippi and Georgia assessing the damage and finding families that need the most help.
“The first step is getting into the homes that need help with cleanup. So all of these homes that were damaged or sustained major damage or destroyed, people often need a lot of help getting that debris cleared up, making sure their roofs are intact and covered. And that is not only a physically difficult job, it’s emotionally difficult to try and get that done. So we are happy to come in and help lighten that load for people and try and take on some of that physical labor to help ease that emotional burden they might be experiencing,” says Scholma.
“After the cleanup and debris removal phase, we kind of move on to that long-term recovery because we know that in the months and years to come, there are going to be people who might slip through the cracks. There will be people that can rebuild their home on their own, there will be people who will get enough insurance or assistance from FEMA to rebuild their home on their own, but there’s a lot of people who are going to slip through the cracks for a number of reasons. Those are the people we really want to help, that really need the help, and if we can walk alongside them and the leaders in their community to meet the needs of those people, that’s our goal and that’s who we will be caring for throughout the coming months and years.”
The humanitarian work World Renew does often gives them to opportunity to share why they’re serving, and it has everything to do with the Gospel.
“You know, we are going in there and literally being the hands and feet of Christ as we’re working on people’s homes, and it’s the beautiful opportunity to be that physical embodiment of Christ, meeting a need for someone. But it’s also a really beautiful opportunity to share the Gospel because we’re coming in and meeting with people, and people ask, ‘Why are you here? Why are you giving your time to come help me? I’m a stranger to you,’ and we have an opportunity to say, ‘We’re here because Christ loves us and He calls us to serve and we are caring for you and loving you out of love for Christ.’”
It’s times like these when the Church’s prayers, generous giving, and service can have a profound impact. Here are a few ways you can help in the aftermath of the tornadoes’ devastation:
- Go — Scholma says, “We need volunteers to help with cleanup, we need volunteers to help with home reconstruction, we need volunteers to meet with disaster survivors to find out what their needs are so we can connect them with help in their community.” Click here to go to World Renew’s website to see current service opportunities, and contact them to find out about upcoming tornado recovery volunteer opportunities.
- Pray — “We’re just praying that we do is planting seeds to root people in Christ and if we can be farmers along that way, we are so very glad. So not only are we helping to rebuild homes, but maybe build their homes in heaven too and plant the seeds of salvation.”
- Give — You can click here to give to World Renew and know that your donation is acting as a direct encouragement to someone who is in desperate need right now. Then pray for the impact your gift will have for God’s Kingdom.
Scholma adds, “I would just like to hope that the readers and listeners would understand that when something like this hits, and it leaves the media, there are still people that are really needing help quite a ways down the road and there are always ways you can help people who have been through a disaster.”