(Photo: Open Door Baptist Church / K.J. Pugh)
The members of Alberta Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., who haven’t been displaced after a tornado ripped their church building apart last week, met in the sanctuary of Open Door Baptist Church a few miles away on Sunday to do what comes natural to them, even though their conditions were unnatural.
“As they sang ‘In Christ Alone,’ and ‘Christ is Our Rock’ and ‘Great is His Faithfulness,’ they just sang it with passion and conviction that this is true, this is right, this is real,’” said K.J. Pugh, associate pastor of education and missions at Open Door Baptist Church, to The Christian Post.
“I read in Isaiah 33 this morning, ‘The Lord will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge,’ and I think that’s the sense they all had – that the Lord is the stability of this church and we will emerge stronger.”
The two churches will share the same building for a while, combining Wednesday night activities. There is little concern about the building situation though. They are more focused on meeting needs.
Pugh responded to a call for help on Thursday to sort through the rubble. His group was given the assignment of clearing roads.
“Some of the saddest things I saw were people walking away from the area, pushing strollers, carrying just a few belongings,” he said. “You feel like you are in one of those disaster movies.”
Tornadoes pounded the South last week and left more than 200 people dead in Alabama alone, with more still missing. The National Weather Service has called the tornado outbreak the largest in U.S. recorded history. But in the midst of the devastation, God is at work.
Colby Mouchette, a youth and college pastor at Alberta Baptist Church, had been going door to door in Tuscaloosa in neighborhoods around his church for quite some time, trying to develop relationships, but he didn’t appear to be making a lot of progress. People, however, are listening now.
“I’m real familiar with a lot of the neighborhoods around where our church building was,” Mouchette told The Christian Post. “And they were familiar with who I was and what we were doing – that we work with the kids and that kind of stuff, but adults had not been real open to relationship. They appreciated us, but they weren’t real open to relationship.
“On Thursday, I was walking, looking for people – there were probably 40 or 50 adults who I’ve never really had much of a conversation with other than knocking on their door who hugged me on the street. They were broken over our church building being knocked down so I told them, ‘The church isn’t gone, just the building, not the people.’ There was just an incredible appreciation for God sparing their lives and they were very receptive to us.”
One of the stories about God’s grace involves a college student Mouchette has been trying to reach out to for the last five years.
“He lost his house and he came to our service yesterday and he told me he wanted to connect with us and hang out one on one,” Mouchette said.
More than 100 people from Alberta Baptist Church have been displaced, but there were no deaths from the storm. Cell phone service is spotty in the area and Mouchette is planning to get in touch with community centers today looking for people in his congregation. He said there are very few people in the city walking the streets because the city has done a great job of finding places for people to go.
Pugh and Mouchette say the rebuilding process could take years, and they realize that many of the people in the community will never return to the area after settling in other parts of the state and country. As you might imagine, the loss of life, memories and connections saddens them.
“I’m telling everybody, “It’s the body, not the building, but the building has a lot of memories and I’ve spent a lot of my life in there. But more than that, the community we love so much is not there.”
Even so, Mouchette says there is a great peace among believers in the city as they lean into the Rock of their salvation.