What a Tennessean Chose to Save During Devastating Flood

By   •   August 27, 2021

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains Sharon and Kenny Folsom minister to Shane Gannon, who is coping with flooding that heavily damaged his home in Waverly, Tennessee.

Shane Gannon had just minutes to move his most precious belongings to safety.

After heavy rains caused floodwaters to race down the streets of small-town Waverly, Tennessee, time seemed to be quickly draining like an hour glass.

“What’s the most important thing you’re going to grab ahold of?”

As he looked around his 1908 Victorian-styled home full of antiques, Shane felt God convict his heart.

While he had already moved some electronics to a higher shelf, Shane quickly reprioritized, placing his Bible study materials in an unreachable spot to the rising murky waters.

Sitting in the shade of a tree behind his flooded home, Shane recalled the divine moment while talking to chaplain coordinators Kenny and Sharon Folsom. The Folsoms are on deployment with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (BG-RRT), a network of chaplains who offer emotional and spiritual care after disaster strikes.

Chaplain coordinators Sharon and Kenny Folsom talked to Shane Gannon (middle) and his brother, Monte Gannon (far right).

Shane and his handicapped wife, Myra, had already faced two floods since they moved into the home in 1998. One was just two inches high, while the other was the town’s infamous 2010 flood, which dumped 11 inches of floodwaters into the Gannons’ garage. Their house had been untouched both times.

That’s why when Shane’s phone first notified him of a flood alert early Saturday morning on August 21, he wasn’t worried. It had to ding five or six more times before he got out of bed to check the weather. It was just rain, or so he thought until he heard a bumping sound.

“What is that?” Gannon questioned. “Then it hit me like a lightning bolt. That’s something floating against my house.”

It was his Chrysler 300.

“I saw the tail end pop up like that,” Gannon motioned. “It sort of spun around … then I hightailed it back in there to get Myra.”

Myra situated herself on their bed, which would soon pop above the water like a pool float. In the meantime, Shane kept an eye on the rising flood while dumping valuables into a trash bag. Then he waded through waters that he described as “chocolate milk,” going into the strong current outside to shut off the electric and gas to prevent fire.

Around that time, the high school sweethearts soon realized that with Myra’s disability, they were going to need a boat rescue.

An inside look at Shane Gannon’s home during the devastating flood.

Shane dialed 911, but the operator told him honestly, “Sir, we’re trying to rescue 100 people right now. We’ll put you on the list, but we don’t know when we’re going to get to you.”

Due to the floodwaters in Middle Tennessee, 20 people lost their lives, including 7-month-old twins. Over 270 homes were destroyed, with some sliding off their foundations. The floodwaters rose to 4 feet high in the Gannon household before going back down.

“Thank the good Lord, for we come out of it unscathed,” Shane told the chaplains. “There’s 20 people around here who did not. What’s laying in the front yard is stuff. Stuff is replaceable.”

“As my daddy used to say, ‘Count your blessings. Name them one-by-one,'” Kenny, the chaplain, said before handing Shane a 30-day devotion and a book full of answers to tough questions about the acts of God.

Shane replied, “When you look at things going on in the world—you look over in Afghanistan, and right now, you’re going to have Christian brothers and sisters lay down their life because of the name of Christ. … Put yourself in that situation to what else is going on. It’s going to work out. It’ll be fine.”

“God is in control,” Kenny said before praying with the group. “Nothing happens that He doesn’t allow. It’s hard for us to understand.

In the midst of churning floodwaters, there’s only One who surely holds sound.

“In times like these, people need an anchor,” Kenny later added, thinking about an old church hymn he recently sang for the first time in years. “And if they don’t have an anchor, I don’t know how they’ll get through.”

Keeping His Word

Just a couple hours before, the Folsoms shared that same truth with two elderly sisters who survived Saturday’s flood separately—and each valued God’s Word as Shane did.

As Phyllis Curtis sat in her damaged home, she recalled asking her daughter, Andrea, to find her Bible.

“That was one of the big things that was on the list,” Andrea explained.

Now it sat safely on Phyllis’ kitchen countertop, cover and all intact.

Her sister, Nell Taylor, completely lost her home in the flood. An owner of several Bibles, Nell excitedly told the chaplains she knows one survived that’s worn and full of notes.

“That makes it special, doesn’t it?” Sharon smiled. “People make the statement God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but yeah, He does. That’s not what Scripture says. He says He’s not going to put more on us than we can handle with His help [Philippians 4:13].

“I know you’re smiling now, but in an hour you may not be,” Sharon continued. “Or tomorrow may be a bad day. Expect that. Know that it’s normal. If you need us to come by and just listen, we are happy to, whether it’s us or some of my team of chaplains.”

Sharon and Kenny Folsom intently listen to Nell Taylor describe narrowly escaping the floodwaters with the help of three complete strangers.

Do you rely on God in life’s hardest moments? Trust Him today.