Connecting and rebuilding: One year after April 27, local teams help in tornado impact area

By KATHRYN ACREE

Baptist Builders for Christ teams review plans on a previous construction project. Photo courtesy of Meadow Brook Baptist Church.

More than 250 deaths and scores more injuries from the April 27, 2011, tornadoes will forever be engrained in our memories.

Phil Campbell, Ala., continues to mend from the EF-5 tornado that struck the town of 1000 residents in Franklin County. The tornado was so large that many survivors reported being in two tornadoes when in fact they felt the impact of the front edge of the storm, a few moments of calm, then a second blow from the back of the tornado.

Mountain View Baptist Church on Highway 81 just outside of downtown Phil Campbell experienced utter destruction that day. In the wake of the storm, Sammy Taylor, pastor of the church for 33 years, led four funerals for church members the Sunday after the storm, but the church still held services in the parking lot that day.

Services continued to be held in modular units on the site but will soon have a permanent home. Meadow Brook Baptist Church and Valleydale Church are helping with the efforts to rebuild the Mountain View building through Baptist Builders for Christ.

Founded by Birmingham architect Lawrence Corley in 1981, the organization coordinates volunteer groups to serve as labor in church building projects. Forty-six projects have been completed across the U.S., typically in areas where Baptist churches are growing and establishing often for the first time.

Volunteers from these two 280 area churches will travel as “construction missionaries” to Phil Campbell at their own expense the week of June 11.

“We primarily will work on finishing up the decking, putting shingles on the roof and to start doing air conditioning work,” said Ken Howell, coordinator of the team from Meadow Brook Baptist. “We will be there the week after the team from Brookwood Baptist in Mountain Brook finishes the framing.” Meadow Brook Baptist has sent teams to work on Baptist Builders for Christ projects since the late 1990s and will send over 35 volunteers in June.

More than 1,000 people from 48 different volunteer groups are expected to be a part of the Mountain View Baptist rebuilding project this summer. The church to be constructed secures the materials while the Baptist Builders for Christ teams serve as labor.

“The program typically saves them [the church] hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor, “ said Howell.

For Howell, a retired accountant, Meadow Brook Baptist’s team has given him new opportunities to serve.

“It’s a blessing to be a part of this,” Howell said. “I’d always heard others talk about being involved in this program and it’s amazing the witness opportunities it offers. To be able to help in this as a volunteer, you’re blessed as much or more as those who are getting the new church.”

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