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Boone’s Chapel pastor weathers second tornado in one yearcomment (0)

April 21, 2011

By Jennifer Davis Rash and Gary Hardin

One week shy of a year ago, Mike Johnson, pastor of Boone’s Chapel Baptist Church, Prattville, was helping his then community of Albertville recover from an EF-3 tornado that devastated parts of Albertville and Geraldine.

And on April 16 this year, he was out cleaning up after another EF-3 tornado hit his community — now Boone’s Chapel in Autauga County.

The original brick structure, which is used as a chapel and the children’s education area, is a total loss, he said. The newer multipurpose section is damaged but should be reparable, he noted at press time.

Super cell thunderstorms broke out over portions of the South, particularly Alabama and Mississippi, on April 15, according to the national weather service. Ninety-eight tornadoes were reported with a death toll of 17 at press time.

In Alabama, tornadoes touched down in Autauga, Monroe, Greene, Marengo, Sumter, Tuscaloosa, Choctaw and Elmore counties.

The storms killed seven people in Alabama including three family members whose two homes sat on the edge of the property of Boone’s Chapel Baptist Church.

“They were really good people,” said Chad Underwood, student minister at Boone’s Chapel Baptist. He and his family lived in the church’s pastorium (it was damaged by the storm), which sat directly between the church and the home of Willard and Sarah Hollon, members of East Memorial Baptist Church, Prattville.

Willard and his two adult children, Steve Hollon and Cheryl Mitchell, died when the tornado hop scotched from the two homes to the church.

Willard’s wife, Sarah, was taken to a Montgomery hospital with lacerations and injuries. Steve’s wife, Karen, and his two daughters, Faith and Renee, were also taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

Glenn Graham, pastor of East Memorial Baptist, said, “They were some of the nicest, most gracious, people you would ever meet.

“Our church family ... [is] providing money and temporary places for the family members to live,” he said. “All these folks had were the clothes on their back.”

Boone’s Chapel Baptist church members were also saddened about the deaths and many were out the next morning helping however they could.

“There’s nothing like a tornado to change your sermon,” said Johnson, as he pulled a file folder from the damaged church building.

His sermon the next day would be from Lamentations 3, “The Unfailing Faithfulness of God.” The church planned to meet at Marbury High School on April 17 but expected to be back on property the following Sunday.

To view a video related to this story, visit the video library.

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