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Beliefnet News

Mormons, Baptists Assist in Tornado Cleanup

c. 2011 Religion News Service

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) Mormon missionaries are often unwelcome guests when they knock at local front doors wearing white dress shirts and holding a Book of Mormon.

But after a tornado, when Mormon missionaries arrive in work clothes carrying chainsaws to help clear fallen trees, they are a welcome sight.

More than 4,000 volunteers for “Mormon Helping Hands” have been working in tornado-ravaged areas across Alabama, descending from Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky to help.

Jacob Hamilton of Pleasant Grove, Ala., said a group of 15 Mormon volunteers came to his yard on a Saturday afternoon and asked if he needed help removing fallen trees. He signed a waiver and the crew did in one hour what it would have taken him days to get done, he said.


The only way he could identify them was by their yellow shirts that had the “Mormon Helping Hands” logo above the words Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“They never tried to tell me about their Mormon faith,” said Hamilton, who attends a Baptist church. “The Mormons were just going door to door. It was a great blessing. They know their way around a chainsaw.”

Faith groups have played a major part in tornado relief, said Julie Wright, director of operations for the Greater Birmingham Area Command for the Salvation Army, an evangelical denomination that has the largest church-run worldwide disaster relief program.

“We’ve had everybody from Gardendale First Baptist to the Islamic Relief Agency that’s been here,” said Wright. “We’ve had people come down every day to volunteer. It’s been a tremendous response.”


The Southern Baptist Convention and Catholic Relief Services are among the largest religious relief agencies worldwide and are working in tornado relief. In Alabama, Southern Baptists have deployed 7,742 trained and certified emergency volunteers, many who have experience in earthquake efforts in Japan and Haiti, said Mel Johnson, state strategist for the Alabama Baptist Convention’s disaster relief ministries.

“We work hand in hand with the Red Cross,” Johnson said.

Southern Baptists have nine feeding units and 30 shower trailers at Alabama tornado relief sites, and have cooked more than 177,000 meals. Chaplains have counseled more than 5,000 clients, Johnson said. Crews travel at their own expense and typically stay a week, sleeping on Sunday school room floors.


“It is hot, hard work,” Johnson said. “But people do it because it’s an opportunity to bring hope.”

The Baptist cleanup and recovery crews, who also cut and remove trees, often end up working with Mormons and other religious volunteers.

“Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, they all bring certain things to the table,” Johnson said. “The community of faith is usually the first to respond. They have compassion; that’s where they live.”

The Mormons, who have no paid clergy, rely completely on volunteers who spend weekends working and sleep in tents at Mormon churches.

“It’s just being a good neighbor, assisting people when they’re in a time of need,” said Seth Clayton, bishop of the Columbiana ward of the Latter-day Saints, who took part in a tree-clearing effort in Tuscaloosa.

“We believe in service,” Clayton said. “Many hands make light work.”

(Greg Garrison writes for The Birmingham News in Birmingham, Ala.)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    Good for them! This is the light side of religion, especially when it doesn’t come along with proselytizing.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    There is nothing light about it nnmns and unless you are willing to pitch in I think your comment is sad and so you. This is the hands and feet of God as people care to the place that they move on the behalf of another it is not unusual for Christians to do this. The greatest gift we have to share is the gospel so yes we do talk about Jesus, don’t try to make it look like it is a dirty thing to do. You sicken me with your hate you can’t even let a story like this be told without taking a dig.

  • cpisme

    The difference between Baptists and Mormons helping out is that Mormons do it to earn their salvation. Baptists do it out of gratitude for their salvation, and showing the same love and grace to others, that’s been shown to them.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    cknuck you can’t even take, or accept a compliment. And you totally lack any of the grace y’all like to talk about so much.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Setaf

    Nice story. CPISME, still doesn’t understand, but will someday. It is really quite simple. Up here in PA I have seldom heard any LDS member run down other churches. On the contrary the Baptists seem to concentrate on it. An article like this is a breath of fresh air. They have more in common than not. Agree to disagree on some things and go help your fellow man.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    nnmns I know you and I don’t need any compliment veiled in synicism from you your intent in any comments concerning Christianity is clear don’t try to wear sheep’s clothing when your fangs are always showing.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    I wasn’t complementing you. I was complementing this activity of certain religious people.

    We add no value to Beliefnet or, more importantly, to peoples’ days, by sniping at each other.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    I’ve never helped people out to earn anything for my salvation. My first impulse is, how can I help you and make you feel better. If there is anything earned for yourself when you offer help you’ve already lost it, my take. I’ve heard people in mid-west say I’m helping you in God’s name. I’d rather have an honest reaction on their own part, cpisme.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    nnmns your evaluations of any of the Christian articles add no value but you insist on showing up spewing venom about God and Christians.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rich


    You are sadly miss-informed. Mormons don’t and never did believe that a person can “earn their salvation”.

    “And he [Jesus Christ] shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.” Alma 11:40, The Book of Mormon

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