JACKSON, Tenn. – July 15, 2008 – Tennessee Baptist churches and agencies have given $1.8 million to Union University’s disaster relief efforts, and total giving from all Southern Baptist churches and entities has topped $3 million.
“We are immensely grateful to our friends both in Tennessee and across the Southern Baptist Convention for their generosity to us in our time of need,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “The Lord has used so many people to be a great blessing to us.”
A devastating tornado slammed the Union University campus Feb. 5, destroying much of the campus housing and doing major damage to other academic buildings. Total damage was estimated at $40 million.
More than 800 congregations in Tennessee and across the SBC have provided $2.2 million toward Union’s disaster relief efforts. Much of the giving from Tennessee Baptist Convention churches came in a special April 6 offering requested by TBC President Tom McCoy.
James M. Porch, executive director-treasurer of the TBC, said he was thankful for the way in which Tennessee Baptists responded, both financially and by volunteering their time.
“I remember my initial response to the news of the tornado devastation at Union: ‘A part of our Baptist family is hurt -- hurt badly,’” Porch said. “Immediately our disaster relief units in the vicinity of Jackson began preparation to move on to the campus to assist as needed. During the following weeks, the disaster relief ready and willing core exceeding over 200 trained volunteers, mostly from Madison/Chester and Beech River Associations, served in various capacities and continued their work over weeks.
“We thank God for his watch care over the Union campus, the students and faculty and the stamina and spirit of giving that has prevailed through our people in response to this tragedy,” Porch continued. “To God be the glory.”
Despite good insurance, Dockery said Union faced an $18 million shortfall caused by a number of factors, such as deductibles, lost revenue from student housing and other programs and the increased cost of rebuilding campus housing to greater standards.
The rebuilding process for the campus housing complexes has gone better than expected, Dockery said. Fourteen new student housing buildings, arranged in four new complexes, will be ready for students to occupy when they return for the fall semester in September.
All told, more than 6,000 donors have contributed about $13 million to the cause, leaving Union about $5 million short of its needs.
“The financial challenges are still pressing,” Dockery said. “But we are confident that the God who has been so gracious to us thus far will continue to raise up people to provide for us. We thank him for his goodness, and we thank Tennessee Baptists and Southern Baptists for their sacrificial support.”