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East McFarland Church spared from tornado, jumps into actioncomment (0)

June 2, 2011

Even though the April 27 tornado spared East McFarland Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, there was no time to spare.

“We just made ourselves available,” Pastor Doug Reeves, said of his church, which immediately became a hub of Southern Baptist relief efforts.

Church members began preparing meals in the church kitchen for tornado survivors, first responders and, soon, an influx of Southern Baptist disaster relief workers from multiple states.

“All of a sudden, it just mushroomed,” Reeves said.

The church began providing housing for a number of the workers, stretching beyond 100  guests several nights in its full-size gym and Sunday School classrooms.

The meal count grew and churches from as far away as the Birmingham area began to bring in meals.

At 6 each morning, workers could prepare lunches of donated lunchmeat and bread.

At 6:30, breakfast was served.

And at 6 each evening, a “dinner on the grounds” type of meal was served to the overnighters and others, including a 20-student crew from Auburn University and 40 students from Louisiana State University.

The church pared back its regular activities to one Sunday service a week.

Meanwhile Reeves was keeping track of arriving volunteer teams and tornado survivors needing assistance, matching the available labor with the multitude of local requests such as chain saw help to clear away fallen trees. Reeves is now turning the volunteer coordination over to Tuscaloosa Baptist Association.

Reeves “improvised like no one I’ve ever seen and turned the church into a staging area,” marveled Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

Other Tuscaloosa churches that escaped tornado damage, Reeves noted, were quick to join in housing and feeding volunteers, too.  (BP)

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