Disaster Relief helps Tucson church after flooding

By Johanna Willett | Sep 27, 2021

On a Wednesday morning in August, 22nd Street Baptist Church staff arrived on campus to find the church basement flooded by the night’s monsoon storm.

The water wasn’t high — just an inch or so — but it covered the entirety of the 5,000-square-foot space. The cleanup process pumped out about 700 gallons of water, said Ashley Evans, senior pastor of the Tucson church. Much of the space was concrete, but there was enough water to soak four carpeted areas and some drywall — all in a basement remodeled last year.

Within hours of the discovery, a few Tucson-based Disaster Relief volunteers showed up alongside church members to survey the damage and start the demo process. The next morning, a small team of Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from Phoenix arrived to finish cleaning up the space and prepare it for restoration. The church wouldn’t have to deal with this alone.

“That was tremendously helpful to us to be able to gauge what our next step was …” Evans said, pointing out that in his 10 years at the church, this was the first time he had seen the basement flood. “We had no knowledge of this, so it was helpful to have someone there immediately to say, ‘Here’s what you’re looking at.’”

Disaster Relief volunteers are trained to respond to crises, often cleaning up debris, providing resources and meeting immediate needs. The team’s support helped 22nd Street begin its own clean-up process and determine how to move forward with restoration. It also, likely, saved the church a significant amount of money, Evans said.

“They helped us get (the basement) from this destroyed look to having something to work with,” he added.

Restoration and repairs continue, as the church works with companies that deal with water damage. Evans said they hope to be back in the basement in October.

With the rest of the church’s education spaces already under construction, for now, ministry must be flexible. Small groups have temporarily moved back online, youth group meets on a different night, and a scaled-down Sunday morning kids ministry is using converted office space.

Ministry adjustments even occurred on the morning they discovered the flood. That day, Pastor Brian Hook of Tucson’s Aspire Church was using the basement for a multi-day conference for church planters, Evans said. They had to relocate upstairs.

“That’s why we did a remodel — to open it and use it not just for us but for other groups …” Evans said. “We wanted to use this space for kingdom ministry, not just our stuff.”

Ultimately, though, the basement damage is just a short disruption, Evans said. Ministry continues.

“For me, one of the things that I have been thankful for in this is that it has given me the opportunity to talk with some different people involved in the restoration process who don’t go to church …” Evans said. “It has given me opportunities to have gospel conversations. Not that I want to flood the church just to have gospel conversations again, but if someone comes to Jesus just because we got a little wet, I’ll take that.”

Johanna Willett, a freelance writer living in Tucson, is a member of Mountain View Baptist Church, Tucson.

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