The people of Alabama will long remember this year as one marked by severe weather. Our state has always known the terror and the devastating effects of major tornados. To have an F5 tornado to hit somewhere in Alabama is news for sure, but to experience an outbreak of 62 tornadoes and for five of them to be of the worst form is newsworthy. That is exactly what happened on April 27, 2011. In a 24-hour period of time, as many as 41 counties had been impacted by at least one tornado. Some areas were hit multiple times on this one eventful day.
As I sought to describe the devastation of these voracious forces of nature, I simply said, “This is our Katrina.” Some have felt that was a reaction of being in the throes of the experience, and it may have sounded a bit too overstated. I don’t think so at all. When you consider the massive amount of destruction and the effects the tornadoes had upon infrastructure, this is an accurate assessment, in my opinion. As most of you know, we are in for a long-term recovery in many places in north Alabama. Much progress has been made, but we have a lengthy journey to make toward any semblance of full recovery.
When the eventful day of April 27 took place, Alabama Baptists and others moved into action to help those who were hurting as a result of the tornadoes. In a brief period of time, a Command Center was set up at the State Board of Missions, and volunteers from all over the state as well as from 12 other state conventions began their labors of love in the impacted areas. Recovery and rescue workers were on the scene to do their indescribable work. Food and shelter were provided for those in need. Chainsaw workers did the tedious tasks of trying to clear out the rubble. Numerous other ministries were done in the name of Jesus for those needing “a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.”
I have never ever been more proud to be an Alabama Baptist than during this most challenging time in our beloved state. I witnessed countess numbers of selfless acts as people aided others following this most destructive day in our history. I rejoiced to see churches become rescue stations, shelters for the homeless, food and clothing centers as well as places of counseling for the people so terrified by their experiences of suffering and loss.
Associations across our state responded in ways which are too numerous to name. DOMs became chaplains and disaster relief workers in every sector of the impacted areas. To this day, some of them are continuing to handle the tasks of helping homes to be built in their communities. The need for local associations in our state was never any more evident than during this time of disaster relief work. Our disaster relief teams are composed of local lay people and ministers from the various associations. Their ministry during this time was critical, and for them I am so grateful.
The oft-quoted phrase from the well-known leader Winston Churchill came to mind very often during the aftermath of this tornado outbreak, “This was our finest hour.” Crisis experiences are times when real character is revealed. For Alabama Baptists and others in our state, this was certainly a test of character and commitment. We can thank God that He has always been faithful, even when life seems so troublesome and horrific. Our calling is to be faithful to Him at all times, taking the good with the bad experiences, and trusting in His goodness and greatness!
Yes, indeed, this has been a year to remember for all the people of Alabama, Alabama Baptists included. On Sunday, April 22, 2012, we will commemorate the first anniversary of what we can call 4/27. This will be a time of reflection and dedication for us as a people of faith. Our annual disaster relief offering will be a focus of attention as well, because we learned something important on 4/27: You can never be too prepared for the unexpected. Join your fellow Alabama Baptists for this special day of remembrance, and let us pray that we will be found faithful in the future as we seek to serve the Lord even in the worst of times.