Baptists Provide DE Tornado Relief

by Sharon Mager

MIDDLETOWN, Del. — Tropical Storm Isaias slammed into Delaware on August 7 with winds, rain, and a record-breaking 29.2-mile tornado that left a path of devastation of thousands of dollars of property damage, several injuries, and the death of one woman. 

In Middletown, Delaware, five families, members of LifeHouse Church in Middletown, Delaware, stood aghast as they surveyed the damage inflicted on their homes and communities. Church members rallied and nearly 80 people volunteered to help. Two teams quickly got to work to show love to these families, and their neighbors.

Joel Miller, LifeHouse’s missions and outreach pastor, and Leticia Britton, the director of children’s ministry, led the teams in their response to the disaster. 

LifeHouse member Thomas Hawkins and Worship Pastor Rob Leight chop up wood and debris.

Estates at Dove Run – “Everything was flattened.”  

Britton led a team of over 45 volunteers in the Estates at Dove Run. She was amazed at the devastation. 

“The entire backyard and roof at one family’s house sustained damage. When I say entire backyard, I mean everything was flattened — tree, bushes, shrubs, everything!” Britton emphasized.

“We are blessed to have a lot of resources in the church. Several men in our church are contractors with this type of experience,” she said. 

Volunteers quickly went to work. The men cut and the women loaded debris into wheelbarrows and delivered it to the road, where others collected the debris. Locals came together to help. They brought a chipper to grind up the wood and a dumpster. 

There were also families nearby who needed debris cleaned in their pools and yards. Some needed tarps on roofs so they could be safe until they had their roofs re-shingled. 

Church members stop to pray for a meal in front of a home with extensive damage from the historic tornado.

Helping at Summit Farms  

Miller led a team of over 30 to the Summit Farm community. 

He attempted to visit the impacted families immediately after the storm but was stopped by downed power lines. When he made it through on the following day, he was overwhelmed. “When I pulled up, it looked like a war zone. There was so much devastation — homes ripped open, trees and fences completely demolished. At one home, the tornado lifted the entire second story off. It was a sight to see,” he said. 

Miller was surprised that there was no loss of life in the community. “God really was merciful,” he said.

The team cut up trees, removed debris, and helped homeowners in whatever ways they could. 

The church also provided food for the workers at Summit Farms. Interestingly, LifeHouse Church moved into their new building on August 23. During the phases of construction, the church provided a catered meal to the building teams several times as an act of love. 

As the last phase was coming to a close, the church planned to offer the meal once more, but the storm arrived near the same time the meal was scheduled. “We had planned to serve lunch to the workers – barbecue chicken, ribs, burgers, and hot dogs from a caterer. We postponed the lunch for the workers, had all the food brought to the neighborhood, fed the families and the volunteers, and then invited the neighbors to eat,” Miller said. 

The meal provided a great time of fellowship and encouragement to all. 

Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Community Engagement Consultant Ellen Udovich reached out to the church and met with Miller to discuss the disaster response. Udovich and other church members visited the Summit Farms tornado victims. “She heard their stories and prayed with them,” Miller said. “It was a comfort to the families to know that not only was their church body there for them but that there is a broader community of Christ which we’re part of that is there too, praying for them.”

Miller served with SEND Relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017 but said he is not aware of anyone in the church who really has trained for or is involved in Disaster Relief.

“Not yet,” he said. “Maybe we will now. This absolutely opened our eyes. I’m amazed at how quickly our church body came together. It gave a good impression to some of the staff and leadership. We could put together a team for when other events happen,” he said. Referring to the church’s new building, Miller said they now also have room to host teams.