The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee voted February 18 to give $100,000 to help Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, rebuild from the devastating tornado that wrecked the campus almost two weeks earlier.
The vote came on the first evening of the group's two-day meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
"The officers of the Executive Committee discussed this last night," chairman Bill Harrell of Augusta, Georgia, told Union President David Dockery as he presented the check. "We knew what the heart of Southern Baptist people is on a subject like this. We want to give you a gift to help you put the campus back in first-class condition."
"We are very, very grateful for your kindness and generosity to us in this moment of need at Union University," Dockery replied. "This is my first time away from the University in thirteen days, and it has been thirteen days like we never could have imagined.
"I just want you to know of our heartfelt, deep, and genuine appreciation," Dockery continued. "The recovery road is long. It will not be easy. It will be painful. And we are going to need your ongoing help and prayers, support and encouragement for many weeks and months to come. I want to thank churches across the Southern Baptist Convention for their prayers and willingness to stand with Union University during this important time in the life and history of this great institution."
Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman, as a trustee of Union, did not participate in the EC officers' deliberations.
Chapman told EC members that during his trips to Union's campus in the storm's aftermath he was struck not only by the destruction but by Dockery's leadership.
"This past Saturday morning I attended a trustee meeting where Dr. Dockery gave us a briefing of all that had happened and what is happening," Chapman said. "As I drove across the campus on that morning, things had already changed dramatically. Much of the debris was already being hauled off, and it's going to be a new day at Union University.
"But during the trustee meeting, Dr. Dockery took all that had happened and all that needed to happen, how it was going to be accomplished and what the results would be, and he put it in a capsule of brief understanding and made it as clear as it could have been," Chapman said. "The trustees went away not only thanking the Lord for His protection during the storm but also for the leadership of Dr. David Dockery."
Executive Committee members watched a video presentation about the tornado striking Union's campus, including not only an overview of the physical destruction but also testimonies from students and parents about God's protection during the storm.
Afterward, Dockery said Union's hope for the future is rooted in their confidence in God's love and power.
"We are hopeful because we believe in a God who raises the dead, and out of the rubble will come renewal," Dockery said. "There is hope for Union University because we have confidence in our great God. He has protected us. He will provide for us.
"We believe in a God Who will touch the hearts of people, Who will come and help our students, help our staff, help our faculty, and enable Union University to carry out its God-ordained mission to advance Christ-centered higher education and expand the Kingdom of God in this earth."
The motion adopted by the Executive Committee also approved appropriations by other Southern Baptist Convention entities to assist Union's recovery efforts.
The responsiveness to Union's needs, Chapman said, "just makes you feel wonderful about being a Southern Baptist."
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.