Baptist Disaster Relief administers massive relief program in Moore

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Baptists continue to help in the recovery efforts after May 19-20 tornadoes affected many Oklahoma communities. Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief maintains mobile command centers in Moore and Shawnee and have provided chainsaw teams, chaplains and feeding units that are supplying meals for volunteers and victims.

Most news coverage has emphasized the arrival of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials after the May 20 tornado that devastated Moore — actually the finale in a sequence of damaging storms over two days.

However, beyond local firefighters and neighborhood volunteers who showed up to start clearing debris, the most rapid initial response came from organizations like Baptist Emergency Relief and the Chabad Jewish Community Center.

Among the most notable stories of recent days has been the response of the Chabad Jewish Community Center in north Oklahoma City. The Orthodox ministry has deployed dozens of young volunteers into the storm area to assist with cleanup and distribute gift cards to provide assistance to the families whose homes were destroyed or heavily damaged. 

In all, approximately $100 million has been raised and deployed in the private sector, a good deal of that from faith-based organizations, since the storm hit just eight days ago. 

Along with the hundreds of Baptist Disaster Relief (DF) volunteers, many local Baptist churches also are having an impact on their respective communities. “The response through volunteering and giving from Oklahoma Baptists and our sister states has been nothing short of heroic,” said Sam Porter, Disaster Relief Director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and Highland Baptist Church in Moore are two of the congregations that have supported victims through providing food, resources and refuge.

“We have been receiving lots of supplies,” said Mark DeMoss, pastor of Capitol Hill. “Everything from water to fruit and all kinds of food items, clothes, hygiene products, tools, gloves and flashlights. We’ve been concentrating on keeping everything organized so those in need can basically come in for a shopping run and take what is needed.”

DeMoss also said his church members have been active in the affected areas, distributing food and water to those who are aiding in clean-up. “Our congregation members have been able to get out and say, ‘Hey, somebody cares about you. Do you have any other needs?’” he said “It’s been a big deal to let people tell their story and for us to pray with them.”

Highland Church is located approximately three miles east of Interstate 35 and has been a needed haven for nearby victims who have not been able to reach the many supply stations that are further west, or closer to the interstate.

Highland Pastor David Evans and Associate Pastor Ken Kniskern started helping victims within minutes after the tornado struck, and the provisions their church has offered grew enormously in the days that followed.  Kniskern said random people have come to Highland to drop off large supplies.

“A lady drove up with bags full of McDonald’s hamburgers. A guy with his son showed up from Sherman, Texas, in a pickup with a flatbed trailer full of bottled water. He wasn’t with any organization. He just wanted to help.”

Due to limited power, Highland has been using multiple generators on its campus. This has not prevented them from being a main resource provider on the east side of Moore. Kniskern said since Tuesday, May 21, the church has received close to 12 semi-truck loads of supplies.

“It’s a faith test every day,” said Kniskern. “Because whenever we are meeting together and saying to each other, ‘We really need this,’ or ‘here’s something that would be helpful,’ God shows up and provides it.”

Highland is hosting portable shower facilities that are provided by DR ministry of Union Baptist Association. Evans and some members of Highland were walking through an adjacent neighborhood to see how they could help victims. He said they met a woman who said she was agnostic. After talking with her and giving her support, Evans and the church members prayed with her. She said she was going to attend Highland on Sunday.

“This encounter would not have happened if not for the tornado,” Evans said about his connection with the woman. Southern Baptist officials told CapitolBeatOK that state churches such as Capitol Hill and Highland will continue to support Oklahoma communities until restoration may be reached.

For this effort, tax-deductible donations can be made to the BGCO Disaster Relief ministry, by visiting or calling (405) 942-3800. Photos, information and updates are available at the Oklahoma Baptists’ blog at

Officials with the Disaster Relief ministry told CapitolBeat OK that 100 percent of donations received will go toward relief efforts in Oklahoma.

About the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) consists of 1,800-plus Southern Baptist churches throughout the state. The mission of the BGCO is to assist the local church to fulfill its Biblical mission and be a channel for cooperative ministry in Oklahoma, the nation and the world.

Note: Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.