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Ala. church reaches out to Joplin, Mo.
Lindsey Robinson, Baptist Press
June 09, 2011
5 MIN READ TIME

Ala. church reaches out to Joplin, Mo.

Ala. church reaches out to Joplin, Mo.
Lindsey Robinson, Baptist Press
June 09, 2011

HUEYTOWN, Ala.

— 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

Baptist Church

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

Baptist Church

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

Joplin.

Photo by Lindsey Robinson

Volunteers from the Mud Creek Baptist Association provide a visible presence near Concord, Ala., with their tent offering free snacks and cold drinks.

“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

rubble.”

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

volunteers.”

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

Baptist Church

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

activity.

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

Baptist Church

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.)