Youth groups aid tornado-battered county
Gary Hardin, Baptist Press
July 22, 2011

Youth groups aid tornado-battered county

Youth groups aid tornado-battered county
Gary Hardin, Baptist Press
July 22, 2011

CROPWELL, Ala. — An Alabama-based youth ministry — helping

St. Clair County to come “storming back” from the April 27 tornado that

destroyed 300 homes and took 13 lives — organized 18 rebuilding projects in

June involving dozens of youth groups.

But youth weren’t the only ones involved in the disaster relief effort in the

county’s Shoal Creek Valley community, said Jeff Huey, director of Extreme

Ministries, an organization based in Cropwell, Ala., that assists churches in

sharing the gospel through drama, praise and worship, evangelism, discipleship

and construction projects.

Huey, an Alabama Baptist disaster relief volunteer, contacted state convention

leaders to see if disaster relief feeding units could prepare meals for the

youth. While the young people replaced roofs, built wheelchair ramps and even

started rebuilding some homes from the ground up, six disaster relief

volunteers from Morgan Baptist Association provided them with three meals a day

the first week of the June 5-25 initiative.

More than 70 youth from Bethel Baptist

Church in Odenville,

Ala., made up the bulk of the volunteers

that week.

BP photo/The Alabama Baptist

Youth from Bethel Baptist Church in Odenville, Ala., prepare to lift a newly constructed wall into place as part of a tornado recovery effort in St. Clair County, Ala.

A year ago, “we didn’t know … where we would go (for a youth missions trip),

but once the disaster in St. Clair County came, we knew we had a focus,” youth

minister Brad Tollison said.

The disaster also changed the plans of the youth group at Crestway

Baptist Church

in Birmingham.

“Our youth were scheduled to go to Chattanooga

on a fun trip. But the youth themselves chose to work this week close to home,”

said Bill Ezelle, an adult worker who

accompanied the youth.

Maria Wall, another Crestway youth worker, said, “I wouldn’t have been able to

live with myself if we used all this money to go on a fun, out-of-town trip

when there was so much need and heartache in our own area.”

Disaster relief feeding units from Limestone and Tuscaloosa Baptist

associations in Alabama were

scheduled to prepare meals for the second and third weeks of the project.

Coosa River

and St. Clair Baptist associations were providing shower units.

The youth began each day with breakfast and a devotion before heading to the

job sites. After showering and eating dinner, they attended a nightly praise

and worship service. They took their meals and bedded down in Ragland

High School’s lunchroom and gym.

“It’s really special having the school available, and their kitchen facilities

are first-class,” said Tom Bennich, a member of First

Baptist Church in Hartselle, Ala., one of

Morgan association’s disaster relief leaders.

As the youth lined up for breakfast and dinner, the volunteers talked with

them, learning many of their names during the course of the week. After eating,

many youth thanked and hugged each cook.

The youth were on pace to accomplish even more than Huey first envisioned. “Our

rebuild projects are going much better than expected,” Huey said in mid-June. “We

have finished three of the nine original projects and have added nine more new


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