— The day after an EF-5 tornado ripped through Joplin
on May 22, a student minister and associate pastor in Alabama
made a phone call to First
in the Missouri town. The person
who answered the phone was a little surprised.
“Hueytown, Ala.? Aren’t you? Didn’t you?”
“Yes, we are,” said Jason Green of Crossroad
in Hueytown. “And yes, we did.”
On April 27 a super cell storm destroyed homes and businesses in Concord and
Pleasant Grove near Hueytown. The next day, with the support of pastor Jimmy
Bradford, Crossroad Baptist stocked its gym with canned goods, hygiene
products, clothes, cleaning supplies and other basic necessities to serve storm
survivors in Alabama.
And now it’s time to reach out to other states, Green said.
On May 26, Crossroad Baptist sent a church van and a 16-foot trailer filled
with the same basic necessities to First Baptist
“If we’re going to be faithful with what God’s provided for us, we have to be
faithful to them,” Green said.
It’s a sign of a step toward recovery in Alabama
that churches can provide aid for states suffering from similar disasters.
In Concord and Pleasant Grove,
progress is being made. Cleanup crews from Bessemer
and Jefferson County, Ala.,
companies and volunteer groups have cleared the largest heaps of debris from
properties and moved them to the edges of the streets to be hauled away.
The result is a flat, bare landscape dotted with twisted trees and the remnants
of a few homes. It’s the next step toward rebuilding, said Ken Maddox, director
of missions for the Mud Creek Baptist Association.
“You can actually see the ground,” Maddox noted. “Before, all you could see was
On the outskirts of Concord, Maddox
and Alabama disaster relief
volunteers Tom Barry and Billy Swindle have
manned a tent with snacks and cold drinks for residents for several weeks.
“Our volunteers have dropped off,” Maddox said. “We could always use a few
Barry has been coordinating disaster relief in Concord
and Birmingham since the tornadoes
hit, but he said he may be called to Missouri
or another relief site.
“I’m going to go where He sends me,” Barry said.
Near the tent, Hueytown’s Concord Highland
stands empty as a result of tornado damage, but with the creak of shifting
wooden beams and ceiling tiles in the wind, the building seems full of
The sanctuary is still standing, but the church will have to rebuild in a plot
across the street, said Buddy Howell, chairman of the deacons.
Howell added the church might consider erecting a monument with some of the
bricks from the old church.
The recreation center was reduced to its steel supports, and the parsonage and
garage were destroyed.
Richard Larson, pastor of Concord Highland, said the congregation is meeting
for Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services at Red
River Baptist Church
in Concord. Church leaders hope to
begin the groundwork on the new Concord Highland in about four months — “hopefully
less,” Larson added.
Like most families and business owners, leaders at Concord Highland have to
wait for the go-ahead from insurance providers before they can rebuild. At First
in Pleasant Grove, pastor Daven Watkins said many church members are waiting
for insurance allotments to come in. Then people have to decide whether to
rebuild or move to a new property, he said.
About one third of the families at First Baptist
Pleasant Grove lost their homes, a fraction that mirrors the overall loss in
Pleasant Grove, Watkins said, noting, “Big decisions are on the horizon for a
lot of people.”
First Baptist Pleasant Grove has a food pantry
and a FEMA representative on its campus to assist survivors. For many, life is
still a struggle, but the worship services at the church echo with celebration
and revival, Watkins said.
“I don’t hear people getting angry with God or asking why,” Watkins said. “People
see God’s mercy in the fact that the closet they were staying in was the only
thing left standing in their house.”
In fact, one church member said the storms were the best thing that ever
happened to him, Watkins said. The man had a newfound faith and purpose, and he
didn’t doubt that God saved him for a reason.
Watkins’ prayer is that people in Pleasant Grove and across the state hold on
to that sense of purpose and passion for Christ even after all the storms —
both literal and spiritual — have passed.
“From day one I’ve asked people to pray that we aren’t missing what God is
teaching us,” Watkins said. “And pray that we maintain a hunger for God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Robinson is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.)