Leaders of Helena-West Helena, Ark., pose with TBM's Rand Jenkins (left) and Texas Pastor Michael Evans (right). Evans is standing next to Mayor Christopher Franklin of the Arkansas city.
Evans: 'It is a disaster when you don't have drinking water'
HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. – TBM is responding to a water crisis in this Arkansas town of about 9,500 people on the banks of the Mississippi River. Delivery has begun of 24,000 gallons of water to the city where half of its residents are without drinking water.
TBM has also connected a Texas pastor, Michael Evans, with city leaders. Evans is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield and mayor of the Texas city with a population of 77,000. He has come alongside the mayor of Helena-West Helena.
Evans and Rand Jenkins, TBM’s chief strategy officer, met with community leaders last week.
“It is a disaster when you don’t have drinking water,” Evans said. “It’s probably going to take a couple of weeks” before the city’s water system gets back online. “They had a terrible snow and ice weather event that busted the pipes. The infrastructure in the city was in need of repair” before the freezing weather.
After the meeting, Evans said the mayor felt he had a better understanding of what the city needed to do. Also, he indicated TBM’s presence could be a catalyst for the city to unify and take care of some underlying issues.
TBM is setting up the water tanks at the Eliza Miller school in West Helena. “The Eliza Miller location is important because this is the more depressed side of town,” Evans said. “These good people in this area are doing some great things, some positive things, but they don’t quite get the help or the resources they need.
“There are other parts of town that are being pretty well taken care of regarding their immediate needs as it concerns water, healthy water, but this part of the city, they don’t have that,” he said.
Helena-West Helena is now planning to bring together community partners. TBM has helped the community come together “so they can discover ways to help themselves after we come in and do our part,” Evans said. “We knit people together, make sure they are trained.
“When we leave we know we have a lasting missionary and missional opportunity that has taken place,” lifting up “the kingdom of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.”
TBM’s Jenkins said: “The city, once thriving, declined in population when some key industries left. However, the drive to succeed is deep, and the Christian-based community organizations in West Helena are doing great things.
“Their technical training for students has been recognized by Google and Wal-Mart and they regularly welcome professionals from various states and Japan to encourage their students,” Jenkins added.
TBM is partnering with the city, local church leaders and a local ministry in the effort.
“We are setting up two 3,000-gallon tanks on the campus of Delta Circles, a nonprofit in West Helena,” said John Hall, TBM’s chief mission officer. “The tanks will be filled immediately and will be filled on demand until we fulfill the 24,000-gallon target.”
Michael Evans (far right) visits with community leaders in Helena-West Helena, Ark., during heavy rain while they prepare for broad response to the city's water crisis.
Large water tanks provided by TBM are unloaded in West Helena, Ark.