- (Photo: AP Images / M. Spencer Green)
Chaplains, congregations and country music stars are playing their part to help Nashville reel from the city's worst flooding in decades.
As the floodwaters recede, volunteers are popping up from all over the state to get homes and businesses cleaned up and to spread love in the midst of hurt and loss.
At least 20 people have died in Tennessee and total damages are estimated at more than $1 billion, according to the state governor, Phil Bredesen.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate commented, "This is a very large, very complex flood event and the numbers are only going to go up," as reported by Reuters.
Though the record rainfall last weekend, which caused the Cumberland River to swell, took many by surprise, Nashvillians have been quick to respond to the needs of neighbors.
Churches began sending out volunteers the morning after the storms and local businesses have closed their doors to get staff out on the ground for relief work.
The ongoing large turnout of volunteers has even surprised the Red Cross, which is providing assistance even though both its Clarksville Montgomery Chapter building and its alternate location were submerged under water. The Red Cross set up shelters in local churches and schools to aid the thousands of people whose homes were destroyed.
Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical humanitarian organization, has established bases at Bethel World Outreach Center in Brentwood and at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville to train and dispatch volunteers to the affected areas.
Relief teams are helping homeowners clear out water, mud, and flood-soaked belongings from their homes.
Encouraged by the massive volunteer force and the body of Christ in action, Rice Brooks of Bethel World Outreach Center said with all the teaching churches have been doing about being missional, people woke up and said "okay, this is where we use this."
Brooks noted that aiding the community's physical needs provides an outreach opportunity.
"The service alone paves the way, if given in the right spirit, [for] the good news of our need for Christ and the answer that the Gospel brings," he said. "These kind of moments do bring us into awareness of our vulnerability [and] Christ, his greatness."
To address the spiritual needs of the devastated community, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team deployed crisis-trained chaplains.
"At times like this, the survivors of the storm need hope and love, and need to know that they are not forgotten," said Jack Munday, director of the Graham team, in a statement. "Our team will come alongside the churches of the area, and those who are tragically affected, to provide emotional and spiritual care."
Along with help on the ground, country music stars including Taylor Swift and Keith Urban have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Music City's flood-recovery efforts.
The Cumberland River continued to recede Thursday from its crest of 12 feet over the flood level Monday. In total, the weekend storms and flooding killed at least 30 people in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.