Ala. church blessed with overflow
Gary Hardin, Baptist Press
June 13, 2011

Ala. church blessed with overflow

Ala. church blessed with overflow
Gary Hardin, Baptist Press
June 13, 2011


— No one can accuse the members of Forest

Lake Baptist Church

in Tuscaloosa of letting grass grow

under their feet.

Within hours of the April 27 tornado, more than 100 survivors living nearby

came to the church for help. A few church members did the best they could to

minister amid the destruction. That’s when the Alabama

congregation sprang into action.

Only two days after the storm, Forest Lake Baptist had set up an extensive

ministry center in its basement fellowship hall. For weeks, the church has been

providing canned food, water, hot meals, baby supplies, clothing, bedding,

cleaning supplies, books and some furniture and appliances. It has even

provided pet food for animal shelters.

What makes Forest Lake’s

quick response so amazing is that its facilities, located in the heart of one

of the tornado’s path, suffered more than $1.5 million in damages.

But “the Lord has graciously provided,” church member Terri Hibbard said.

Photo by Gary Hardin

Earline Thornton and her son Boyce, members of Forest Lake Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., volunteer daily at the church’s disaster relief center. Though the church sustained significant tornado damage, it has been blessed with an overflow of relief supplies and is distributing those to the community.

Fellow member and ministry center volunteer Jan Anders agreed. “There is

nothing we have needed that hasn’t walked through the doors when we needed it.”

In fact, God has provided in such an overwhelming way that Forest

Lake has given goods to other

churches and organizations.

A team of volunteers from Mississippi

showed up the first week and provided 1,500 hot dog meals out of a trailer.

Volunteers from Florida

distributed barbecue sandwiches in the church’s parking lot.

World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse and The Salvation Army all have donated items

to the ministry center.

“We’re getting supplies from people all over the country,” pastor Donnie Payne

said. “A tractor-trailer rig loaded with relief items just rolled onto the

church’s parking lot a few days ago. The driver came inside and said we could

have everything on his truck.”

The church has received so much, in fact, that many relief items have been

stored in overflow rooms.

“We’re trying to stock up for the long haul,” Payne said. “We know there will

be needs for months to come.”

He said the church initially ministered to storm survivors, rescue workers,

police and National Guard troops but now is reaching out to construction


God also has provided volunteers. More than 200 church members have

participated in Forest Lake’s

disaster relief ministry.

“Our church has really come together during this time,” member Susan Kincaid


In addition to offering relief items, members have listened to and prayed with

those needing help. A table in the center of the fellowship hall stacked with

Bibles bears a sign that reads, “Take one.”

Payne is quick to credit the response of University

of Alabama students.

“University students have risen to the occasion,” he said. “Hundreds have come

by the church offering their help.”

Church member Earline Thornton, who is in her 70s, has been an inspiration for

all volunteers. Even though Thornton

lost her home to the tornado, she shows up every day to help in the ministry


Billy Gray, interim director of missions for

the Tuscaloosa Baptist Association, said, “When you walk into Forest

Lake’s ministry center, you think

you are in a store. One half looks like a department store, and the other half

looks like a grocery story. They are so organized.”

The first Sundays after the storm, Forest

Lake held worship in the Baptist

Campus Ministries chapel on the University

of Alabama campus. For the past

several Sundays, worship has been held in the church’s damaged sanctuary.

“We will rebuild,” Payne said. “But for now, our main focus is on people who

need us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hardin is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.)

Related story

Disaster relief continues in Tuscaloosa