December 17, 2021

Adventist Community Services Gets Ready to Assist in Tornado-Ravaged States

Multiple church regions across central U.S. are working to keep up with the situation.

By North American Division, and Adventist Review

Leaders of the North American Division Adventist Community Services (NAD ACS) have been preparing to assist with recovery efforts in the U.S. states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi after a historic long-track tornado ripped a wide swath of destruction across those states. 

The tornado event struck late Friday night, December 10, into Saturday morning, December 11. 

According to a report shared by W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS director, Kentucky appears to be the most heavily affected; the current number of deaths reported in Kentucky is 74, with 109 people missing. 

“Assessment is taking place at present, and three of our conferences are actively putting together their ACS teams for work,” Lea said. “The NAD is supporting these efforts and have been in direct contact with conferences in that area and nearby: Kentucky-Tennessee, South Central, Arkansas-Louisiana, and Georgia-Cumberland conferences.”

The long-track tornado was part of a “family” of tornadoes that touched down on the same weekend across multiple states in the center of the country, leaving considerable damage and dozens of fatalities. The long-track tornado tore through parts of four states in four hours. It began in northeast Arkansas and cut a path through “quad-state” towns and small cities such as Monette, Arkansas, and Mayfield, Kentucky, continuing for more than 200 miles. Lea reports that roads have been completely devastated in some places and communities have suffered significant damage, with homes and buildings utterly destroyed. Tens of thousands of people have been left without power.

While ACS disaster response teams have not yet been deployed, they have been actively preparing for a response. “Our ACS conference directors have spent many hours connecting with members of the disaster response community, including the American Red Cross, as we determine what needs ACS might be able to assist with,” Lea said, sharing that many conference calls have already taken place among conference ACS teams and state officials.

“Because ACS is nationally known for our expertise in donations management and warehousing, many of the states have requested our teams respond in this fashion. While this is one area of help that we can bring, many of our conferences have begun to offer other ways of assisting, from mobile distribution of goods to debris removal,” Lea explained.

Lea shared that, as of December 14, the following conferences currently await placing boots on the ground while search-and-rescue efforts continue for those who might still be trapped in the rubble:

  • South Central Conference — Lillie Buckingham and Barbara Barnes prepare to deploy warehouse teams in Kentucky and Tennessee as needed
  • Kentucky-Tennessee Conference — Mike Hewitt, the conference's vice president for administration, is soliciting help from local churches in Kentucky to assist with debris removal and possibly a warehouse management team
  • Arkansas-Louisiana Conference — Lavida Whitson is forming multiple teams that will deliver goods throughout the affected area in Arkansas
  • In addition to the conferences mentioned above, Debra Davis Moody in the Lake Region Conference has been contacted. That team will assess the need within Illinois, where tornadoes also touched down, to determine how they might assist with recovery efforts taking place there.

“Many have reached out with the desire to know how they can also assist these efforts,” Lea added. “Because the recovery effort is so new, a needs list has not yet been completed, but this information will be shared as soon as local authorities provide this information. For now, we consistently say ‘cash is best,’ and we encourage members to pray for those impacted and those who will administer help.”

Some information for this article was provided from the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Facebook account. The original version of this story was posted on the North American Division news site.