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