Churches offer help and hope
Posted: Thursday, February 5, 2009 9:32 pm
By CHRIS MENEES
Messenger Staff Reporter
God provided shelter from the storm.
While many churches in Obion County and far beyond are stepping up in the aftermath of the Jan. 26-27 ice storm to offer help and hope to those in need, three local churches opened their doors for several days last week to serve as emergency shelters.
The emergency shelters identified by local emergency management officials included those at Second Baptist Church on Everett Boulevard in Union City, South Fulton Baptist Church on Forrestdale Avenue and Anointed Church of the Living God on South Miles Avenue in Union City.
All three churches offered their facilities for the same reason — to show God’s love.
“It’s a Christian outreach program to minister to the community to show the love of Christ and the life that He’s given us to the community, with no strings attached,” said South Fulton Baptist Church disaster relief chairman and deacon Chris Hill, who further identified himself as “first, and foremost, a Christian.”
Among the many other hats worn by Hill are being a volunteer chaplain and chainsaw crew member with Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief and serving as disaster relief coordinator for Beulah Baptist Association, which recently has included working with other local churches interested in establishing shelters.
Hill said he became interested in shelters after traveling to New Orleans to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. When he returned, the shelter was established at his church with the help of the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
He said a total of 55 people came through South Fulton Baptist Church’s shelter last week, with 33 being the most at any one time. Some storm victims from the Twin Cities were also referred to the nearby Fulton First Baptist Church’s shelter.
Hill said all of the storm victims touched his heart, but he particularly recalled an elderly Graves County, Ky., woman named Ruth. He said the lady had no family in the area and needed a place to get warm.
“She broke down and cried about it, that someone did care and that she had a place to go,” he said. “Those are the things that you see. They all feel that way.”
Dwayne Ervin, minister of missions at Second Baptist Church, said the church “felt like there was a need to minister to people in the name of Jesus” after the ice storm.
He said church members were “super” about volunteering in areas that included preparing food or staying at the church round-the-clock to assist those in need. He said there were as many as 30 guests one night and there were several guests who stayed for several nights while they were displaced.
Ervin recalled a couple of storm victims who needed special attention with medical needs and how grateful they were for church’s ministry to them.
“They were the sweetest people, so appreciative,” he said.
Ervin said today he is now in “chainsaw mode,” explaining that the church is currently hosting some members of Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams as they help with limb removal.
As residents begin to move forward and return to their homes, many local churches also now have members volunteering to help with the removal of limbs and debris from yards.
Bishop Barbara Bolden, pastor of the Anointed Church of the Living God, said her church’s shelter which was open last week offered a place of rest and a hot meal for those displaced by the storm, meeting a need in the community.
“There was a mass need for people to have somewhere to go to have heat and food and some sort of comfort,” she said, explaining she was especially concerned for those without heat. “That’s just the way the Lord moved me to do what I could do.”
Ms. Bolden said church members stepped up to volunteer to prepare meals, donate items and even pull 24-hour shifts to ensure someone stayed at the church round-the-clock. She said the church acted as “an extension of God’s arms” in providing comfort to those in need and in having a heart to serve others.
She said people who stayed at the shelter were often anxious and worried about the homes they left behind, but they were welcomed into the church building and shown love by the congregation. She was particularly touched by one guest from Fulton who cried and hugged everyone when she left to return home. She said even though the lady was happy to return home, she was sad to leave her new friends at the church.
“It was very rewarding,” Ms. Bolden added. “We’re here to serve and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.5.09
ice storm, Obion County