By Jennifer Harris
Word&Way News Writer
Ron Woody is trusting in God’s provision after a winter storm left First Baptist Church of Webb City without a sanctuary. Woody, the church’s associate pastor, was one of about six people in the church office when the roof and walls of the sanctuary collapsed Jan. 14. No one was hurt.
According to Woody, the ice piled on the roof put too much stress on the truss, which gave way and put weight on another truss. “It was a domino effect,” he said.
The sanctuary shared a roof with the church office, which faced minor damage. “Crews have been working long hours to get [the gaps] closed up,” Woody said. Getting the church weatherized is the main priority, he added.
“We are all set with heat and utilities,” he said. After the storm, some parts of the church were temporarily without heat and utilities. The clerical staff moved across the hall into a heated area, while other staff members are relyingon portable heaters. According to Woody, people worked overtime in order to restore the church’s electrical power.
The church has been able to salvage a few things, including some sound equipment, from the part of the sanctuary that is still standing, but much of what they have found has been damaged, Woody said.
Despite the loss of space, First Baptist is continuing to hold Sunday and Wednesday services in its Family Life Center, which holds more than 400 people. On Sunday, church members gathered to worship together in spite of the additional snow that fell over the weekend. “It was a rallying day,” Woody said. “We really wanted to meet together to show that we are going to get through this.”
The church is putting together a building committee to determine the next steps to take. “We have a lot to replace before we can get back to what we were doing,” Woody said. He added that insurance adjusters already have been to the church and that builders and the community have been quick to help.
“I’d just ask people to pray for us, that God would be able to use this for His service,” Woody said. “And He will.”
The winter storm left more than 330,000 Missouri customers without electricity on Jan. 14, according to the State of Missouri Emergency Management Agency. As on Jan. 21, work crews had restored power to all but 48,500 customers.
“The storm just took down all the trees and really devastated the area,” said Michael Haynes, director of missions in Greene County Baptist Association. At last report, Greene County was reporting 40,000 homes still without power.
According to Haynes, chainsaw units from around the country, including the Missouri Baptist Convention disaster relief team, were in Springfield to help clear the fallen trees and other debris. The MBC team also helped prepare food to be distributed. Volunteers prepared 874 meals on Jan. 16 and 1,770 on Jan. 17, according to a disaster relief update on the Missouri Baptist Convention Web site.
“I am so proud of our churches and pastors,” Haynes said. Greene County Emergency Management called to ask if any churches would be willing to serve as shelters. Of the eight churches Haynes contacted, each was willing – unfortunately none had electricity. “Every location I called was willing to help. That spirit is really strong in this area.”
Haynes emphasized that the recovery process would take a long time and continue beyond the clearing of debris.
Volunteers are still needed to help cook and serve on chainsaw teams. For more information, call the MBC’s Danny Decker at 573-680-3701 or 573-690-1648.
As of Monday, 14 storm-related deaths had been reported in Missouri, including seven traffic-related deaths and seven due to carbon monoxide poisoning.