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SBCV DR responds to West Liberty, KY Tornadoes


by Amanda Sullivan

When a series of tornados ripped through West Liberty, Ky. in early March, a trail of death and destruction was left in their wakes. The 120 mile per hour winds flattened some parts of the city and left many individuals with beaten and battered homes, testing the faith and hope of most people involved.

The wreckage from the tornados created a need – a need that was answered by nearly 70 college students from across the country during spring break. Volunteers from the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) Disaster Relief program were part of the clean-up team, led by the Kentucky Baptist Collegiate Ministry.

“SBCV team members were invited to assist due to their previous involvement in mobilizing more than 300 College Students in a response last year to New York,” SBCV Disaster Relief Director Jack Noble said. “Kentucky Baptist Disaster Response leadership asked Jack Noble, SBCV State Disaster Relief Director to arrange for leadership of this new group of volunteers. Noble shared, “We normally require 10 hours of training and background checks but when confronted with 70 college students desiring to respond and the need is great, you make a way. “

The team that was sent to Kentucky by SBCV’s Disaster Relief department was carefully chosen.

“Really what happens in a situation like that is Jack will make the requirement known, and the rest will volunteer,” Group Leader Ron Early said. “Then he assesses whether or not the people who volunteered can do the job. And, luckily, he thought we could.”

During a week when most college-aged students are found to be sitting on a beach somewhere, working on their suntan, others volunteered to act on a greater need.

“The thing that you could see was 75 to a 100 hundred young men and women in distinctive … shirts who had dedicated themselves for a week to picking up trash – any kind of trash, any kind of tornado debris – and put it where it was designated,” Group Leader Ron Early said. “And they were doing all of this with a smile. It was reason enough for me to be there.”

The impact that the disaster relief teams had on community members extends beyond picking up rubble. The overall generosity and consideration exhibited by team members made an even greater influence on homeowners.

Early said that one story specifically stuck out to him. The team was spread out across one lady’s property “who had the top layer of her house blown off,” spanning 50-60 acres, according to Early. He recalls noticing one young man running down the hill side “with something in his hand,” he said.

“He came into the room and had a $100 bill that he had found and could not wait to give it to that homeowner… ,” Early said. “We don’t know whether it was hers or not. It could have come from several miles away, but it was found on her property, and he assumed that it was hers. The expression on her face, when that young man handed her a $100 bill that he could have just as easily put in his pocket -- well, her expression was priceless. She was brought to tears.”

The actions of the student volunteers not only impacted the West Liberty community, but also the team leaders.

“Every opportunity I get, I’ve expressed my own gratitude for going and the way it has changed my concept of young people,” Early said.

Aiding in clean-up efforts is more than a job, it’s about people’s lives and faith.

“The thing that we have to keep in mind is that when we go out on disaster relief is that, as Jack has said, ‘We use disaster relief as means to get peoples’ attention so that we can evangelize,’” Early said.

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