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Hackleburg church builds back debt-free following April 2011 tornado destructioncomment (0)

December 13, 2012

By Neisha Fuson

Hackleburg church builds back debt-free following April 2011 tornado destruction

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Hackleburg, has much to be thankful for this season. 

After the church building was wiped away in an April 27, 2011, tornado, volunteers from 11 states and donations from places as far-flung as Arizona and Pennsylvania helped complete a new debt-free building and a paved parking lot, in addition to securing a new church van.

Pastor Gene Thomas, who survived the storm in the church’s basement along with eight others (see the May 26, 2011, article “Hackleburg pastor home from hospital after tornado-related injuries” at www.thealabamabaptist.org), said he heard a lot of, “Oh, this is so beautiful” at the building’s Nov. 11 dedication.

Dave Tidwell, project chairman for the Carpenters for Christ (C4C) volunteer group based out of Cherry Street Baptist Church, Attalla, attended the celebration and recalled some of the rebuilding process.

The C4C group was able to do “more [on Emmanuel Baptist’s building] than almost any other building the group has worked on,” Tidwell said, because the site was close enough and “the Lord put in place the contacts that [were] needed at the time they [were] needed.” 

But C4C was not the only group that volunteered their time and effort toward rebuilding Emmanuel, a Marion Baptist Association church. The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) provided two mobile chapel units to host Emmanuel’s congregation and funds to help rebuild. Several churches from around the association, state and nation worked in every stage of the rebuild process. Volunteers bulldozed the property, broke ground, laid the foundation, framed the building, laid brick, put up siding and paved the parking lot, among other tasks. Several volunteers also attended the dedication day, which Thomas described as a “joyful, very cordial event.”


Jimmy Closterman, of Kentucky, shared a message on “being the church” and “being a place for healing and hope.” Sonja Scales and Jerry Jackson,
a head carpenter with C4C, shared special music during the service.  

“This is a special church,” said Mark Gallups, director of missions for Marion Association. “[The Thomases] reach out and give hope to those who have no hope. … They are in the places of utter poverty. … That’s who God has called them to.” 

Emmanuel’s first service in the new building was Oct. 28, and the church has already begun to discuss different options for new ministries, such as a Wednesday night supper or a children’s ministry. 

“[Emmanuel] is not looking for anything except for the opportunity to touch people’s lives with the gospel and give them hope,” Gallups said.

Thomas expressed his deep gratitude for all the volunteers, assistance from the SBOM and publicity through articles in The Alabama Baptist newspaper and other outlets.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done,” he said. “We’re excited. It’s just so good to walk into a new church and it be ready to go.”

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