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Partnering to Aid Jefferson City

With the twin disasters of major flooding and an EF3 tornado striking Jefferson City, Missouri, simultaneously, relief efforts from multiple sources are underway.

When an EF3 tornado, with speeds up to 160 mph, ripped through Jefferson City, Missouri’s state capital, on May 22 it brought together two powerful forces of nature. In addition to the tornado, parts of the city were already flooding from a swollen Missouri River, with evacuations issued and the river still rising into major flood stage.

The Southern Missouri district, area churches, Convoy of Hope, and other compassion organizations have come to the aid of Jefferson City as well as other communities hit hard by at least one of the twin disasters. However, according to the district office, no AG churches in the Jefferson City area have reported being damaged by the tornado or flooding.

Bob Nilges, associate pastor at First Assembly of God in Jefferson City, says at 7 a.m. on Saturday they had 135 volunteers present for orientation, with another 70 volunteers coming to the orientation at noon.

“Our focus is on clean-up, helping people whose homes were hit or damaged by the tornado,” Nilges says. “Homes with downed trees, we cut them up and drag them to curb; we pick up debris in yard; we tarp damaged roofs; and we have chaplains that go out and visit and pray with people on the ground.”

Volunteers aren’t only from the church, Nilges explains. They have come from throughout the community, state, and across the country, including a group of high school students from Lincoln, Nebraska, and another volunteer coming in from southern New Mexico to help.

“At the end of the day Tuesday, we’ve had a total of 508 volunteers come through, working a total of 4,072 hours, and even had six salvations,” Nilges says. “We’ve received 114 work orders so far and have completed 54 of them.” Nilges believes they’ll be sending out teams through the middle of next week.

Carol Hudler, 63, is the Southern Missouri district's 461 Response coordinator. She is assisting AG churches to help victims in the Jefferson City area.

“We have three levels of response, in this instance, we are coordinating groups wanting to assist and getting them connected to the right people,” Hudler says. “In other situations, we have a caring ministry — providing food, clothing, and shelter — as well as crisis care to assist first responders in dealing with horrific images that can accompany disasters.”

Hudler says she also has a growing database of churches and individuals who she can call on to assist when disaster strikes an area. “Our database allows us to find AG churches and individuals near a disaster site, their qualifications, and resources they can provide,” she explains. “We are always looking to add more members to better cover the state.”*

One of the primary purposes of 461 Response, a U.S. Missions effort under Chaplaincy Ministries, Hudler says, is to help take the burden off of pastors’ shoulders. Instead of pastors having to field dozens of calls from individuals and church teams wanting to help, 461 Response does the coordinating and connecting, turning a potential chaos of unorganized volunteers into a prepared and connected force of workers with specific tasks to accomplish.

Samaritan’s Purse and Convoy of Hope have also been a steady and cooperating presence throughout the disaster, with Samaritan’s Purse providing volunteers and leadership and Convoy of Hope delivering 20 pallets of relief and clean-up supplies during two different stops at the church.

However, although clear signs of progress have made in cleaning up streets and yards from debris in Jefferson City and surrounding areas, many roadways are still flooded and the nearly 43,000 city residents have yet to face the full wrath of the flooding Missouri River.

According to the National Weather Service, a flood warning for Jefferson City continues “until further notice.” Flood stage of the Missouri River is 23 feet. Major flood stage begins at 30 feet. As of Wednesday morning, the flood stage was at 32 feet. The river isn’t expected to crest until Monday at 32.9 feet — but with more rain in the forecast, the crest height and date are subject to revision.

Prayers for provision and protection for those suffering loss, for those who may still suffer loss, as well as for those providing aid are requested.

*To learn more or to coordinate a team for Jefferson City, contact Hudler at [email protected].

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.