Church, CBF responding to Miss. twister

University Baptist in Hattiesburg is now helping neighbors and may host CBF disaster-relief volunteers later.

By Jeff Brumley

The images and stories from Hattiesburg, Miss., present the devastation the Sunday’s twister brought to the city. But when finally reached by phone in the Mississippi town, Rusty Edwards had to mention the miraculous.

“As far as I know, all our people are OK,” said Edwards, senior pastor of University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg. “But we had one family who lost everything, and it’s a miracle they are alive and their neighbors are alive.”

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At least 200 homes were damaged and more than 60 injured when the tornado tore through with wind speeds exceeding 145 mph, according to news reports

Edwards, meanwhile, said he and others from University Baptist have just gotten out into the surrounding neighborhoods today and have been horrified to see the extent of some of the damage.

“We are canvassing, some with chainsaws and wheelbarrows … to help our immediate neighbors get trees off their lawns,” Edwards said.

Meanwhile, Edwards has been in steady contact with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s disaster-response ministries to coordinate a longer-term relief plan.

Tommy Deal, CBF’s national response coordinator, said Feb. 13 he had just gotten the OK from city and state officials to begin sending volunteers. CBF is not a first-responder agency, but invests in long-term relief efforts.

CBF has broadcast the need in Hattiesburg and will likely use University Baptist as a base of operations from which to assist the uninsured and under-insured residents of Hattiesburg, Deal said, while the church considers what it can do to provide food and lodging for volunteer groups.

“We do what we can to come alongside the local church to help with the resources they need to help the community,” Deal said.