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DeKalb Association churches continue to rebuild, help those in needcomment (0)

September 1, 2011

By Sammie Jo Barstow

On April 27, Chris Hampton started the day as the men’s ministry director at Broadway Baptist Church, Rainsville, a role he’s filled for several years. By the end of the day, he also had become the coordinator for volunteer disaster relief at the DeKalb Baptist Association church.

Four months later, Hampton expects this new role to continue for some time.

“We’ve just started in the rebuilding stage now,” he said.

In addition to helping with minor repairs and debris removal, Broadway Baptist has taken on the challenge of completely rebuilding a house for one church family.

Although requests have diminished, Broadway is still involved in helping people who do not qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or are uninsured or underinsured.

“Many people are struggling even to provide food for their families. Our church has given out many food cards so they can go to the grocery store and buy perishable items like milk, bread and meat,” Hampton said.

Several DeKalb Association churches provided meals immediately after the storms.

Pastor Kent Wilborn was not surprised when the women of Mount Olive Baptist Church arrived at the church early the day after the tornado and cooked breakfast for volunteers and displaced people.

“At noon, they cooked another meal, and that night, they cooked again. These ladies provided three meals a day for anyone who came to eat for more than a month,” Wilborn said.

Mount Olive Baptist, a small rural church near Rainsville, still sends out teams of men to do heavy equipment work, and many times, they carry sandwiches prepared by the women. Wilborn said the church has been blessed with monetary donations and continues to provide food and buy necessary items for families in its area.

Although the recent storms were by far the worst destruction the area has experienced, Jeff Mann, pastor of First Baptist Church, Rainsville, said this is the fourth time since 2008 that his church members have been involved in disaster relief within a 15-mile radius of the church.

In 2008, they helped after a tornado struck the Pisgah-Rosalie area. In 2009, it was Sylvania and in 2010, Geraldine.

In the early days after the disaster, the church was faced with a difficult decision. Sixty-seven adults and teens were scheduled for a missions trip to south Alabama for the week of July Fourth. With its community in such devastation and so many of its members having suffered loss, should it cancel the trip?

According to Mann, church members prayed for the answer. They decided to work at home through May and June and then go on the missions trip, as planned, with a few modifications.

“We shifted from doing ministry at home to doing a different kind of ministry in another location. I think it was an encouragement to our members to get away for a week, and I believe we offered some blessings in what we did for those people,” Mann said.

First, Rainsville, deacon Eddie Garrett had participated in the summer missions trip for nine years, but he wasn’t able to go this year. The storm destroyed his and his wife’s home, as well as the homes of their two sons and their families and grandson and his family. Out of four homes, they salvaged almost nothing. After the storm, the families walked through a pasture, picking up clothes and small items.

Although Garrett was disappointed about not being able to go on the missions trip, today he is busy helping his family and others rebuild.

“I’ve always been on the other end of this situation by being able to help others. Now others are helping me and it’s humbling,” Garrett said. “Our houses were destroyed and our vehicles were destroyed but my children and grandchildren and their families are alive, and we’re praising God for His goodness and blessings.”

Although some families suffered great loss, Hampton, Wilborn, Mann and Garrett all commented on how much joy has emerged through the grief and tears.

“We’ve always had a close church,” Mann said. “But if you can get any closer, we are now.”

Each church also has experienced growth since the storms.

On a recent Sunday, a family came to worship at Mount Olive Baptist and the father borrowed a guitar and joined the praise band.

“He blessed our hearts! Just one of many blessings we’ve experienced,” Wilborn said.

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