American Baptists respond to Louisiana flooding, Indiana tornadoes

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 8/30/16)—In response to recent natural disasters in Louisiana and Indiana, American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) Disaster Relief Office has distributed Emergency Disaster-relief grants from American Baptist Churches USA’s One Great Hour of Sharing funds.

More specifically, $10,000 was released to American Baptist Churches of the South (ABCOTS) in response to torrential rain and flooding in the Baton Rouge, La., area, while $5,000 was released to American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky (ABC-IN/KY) in response to tornadoes in the Kokomo, Ind., area.


In Louisiana, Shady Grove First Missionary Baptist Church, Baker, and Greater New Guide Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, are ministering to their own displaced congregants as well as to other families.

Shady Grove’s congregation has been unable to meet in the church since the flood occurred, according to the Rev. James M. Harrison, executive minister of ABCOTS, because the building’s interior sustained damage from 22 inches of water, and burial vaults from a nearby cemetery were observed floating on church property. In addition, the homes of congregants and the church’s pastor were affected, Harrison says, and the pastor faces removing soaked sheetrock from his own home.

Greater New Guide’s congregation has resumed meeting in its church building after missing one Sunday because of receding flood waters, Harrison reports. An estimated 40 families are seeking immediate housing, he says, and some may need to be housed out of state.


In Indiana, Kokomo and surrounding areas were affected by destructive winds of up to 165 mph from multiple tornadoes. Homes, businesses and infrastructure have reportedly sustained severe damage.

According to the Rev. Soozi Whitten-Ford, executive minister of ABC-IN/KY, Calvary Baptist Church, Kokomo, will coordinate American Baptist relief efforts.

“I just got home from helping one of our older saints pull a large tree off of their roof, cut it up and drag it to the street,” said the Rev. Jeff Sexton, Calvary’s pastor. “We will be setting up a team to go to one of our low-income housing projects to work there.”

How you can help

 Both Louisiana churches have requested monetary donations to meet housing needs, as it remains undetermined as to when families will be permitted to return to homes. In addition, damage to many personal vehicles indicates a need for assistance with transportation costs.

Donations designated to “One Great Hour of Sharing/Southern floods/Storms” and/or to “One Great Hour of Sharing/Indiana/Kentucky tornado” can be mailed to the attention of Kim Wilkins at American Baptist Home Mission Societies, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA, 19482-0851. One hundred percent of donations go to relief efforts; no dollars are retained for administrative costs. For more information, contact Wilkins at 1-800-222-3872, x2413, or

American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.

 American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.

 One Great Hour of Sharing is administered by the World Relief Committee of the Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA. The committee facilitates American Baptist emergency relief, disaster rehabilitation, refugee work and development assistance by establishing policy guidelines and overseeing distribution of the annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering received by churches. Learn more at