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'My eyes lit up' for tornado relief ministry

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
ANNISTON, Ala. (BP)--Meg Pelley, who attended a summer camp near Anniston, Ala., as a child, returned to the area with her four teenage children to do disaster relief ministry during the Memorial Day weekend.

The Pelleys were among 43 volunteers from three Tennessee churches -- First Baptist in Rockwood and South Harriman and Lee Village, both in Harriman -- who assisted survivors of the April 27 tornado in three construction projects coordinated by the Calhoun Baptist Association.

One group of volunteers repaired a damaged mobile home in Webster's Chapel. Another group repaired a 71-year-old widow's roof in Ohatchee. In the Wellington community, a third group built a wheelchair ramp, porch and deck for a mobile home that replaced a home destroyed by the EF-4 tornado.

Money for the projects came from the Calhoun association and the Tennessee churches.

"Our three churches received a one-day love offering for Calhoun Baptist Association disaster relief," said Josh Lancaster, senior pastor of First Baptist in Rockwood. "We raised nearly $14,000 to add to money already given by Calhoun association churches."

Jeff Rone, a member of the Rockwood church, said service in the name of Christ motivated him to come to Alabama.

"The very second my pastor mentioned this opportunity, my eyes lit up," Rone said.

On Memorial Day, the association's disaster relief ministry continued with two additional projects. Volunteers from Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., and Grace Baptist Church in Springfield, Tenn., joined with volunteers from two Calhoun association churches, Greenbrier Road Baptist in Anniston and First Baptist in DeArmanville, to start rebuilding two homes from the ground up in the Ohatchee area.


Greenbrier Road pastor Brad Williams and First Baptist DeArmanville pastor Tom Bonds coordinated the effort.

"Brad had connections with people and I had connections with lumber yards," Bonds said. "It's all just fallen into place. God can put things together when no one else can."

Behind the scenes, the Calhoun association's director of missions, Sid Nichols, and associate director, John Thomas, provided their skills and motivation for the five disaster relief projects.

"We're assisting people who had either no homeowners insurance or limited insurance coverage," Thomas noted.

William Cain, pastor of Asberry Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Ala., who has volunteered his carpentry skills, said God "has blessed our association's efforts to minister to people."

Oak Grove Baptist Church in Glencoe, meanwhile, has converted its fellowship hall into a ministry center that has been assisted by other churches in the Calhoun and Etowah Baptist associations as well as churches of other denominations in the community and some businesses.

Food, clothing, personal items and bedding are still being distributed to tornado survivors.

Tena Norton, an Oak Grove member, pointed to massive rows of canned food, saying, "Our food pantry has been replenished four times over. We haven't lacked for anything. God has supplied our needs in a big way."

Amazingly the church's relief operation received a shipment of chicken from Arizona, while a Delaware resident drove to Oak Grove Baptist in an SUV filled with baby items.


Also, churches and community groups from the greater Anniston-Jacksonville-Gadsden area set up a massive array of tents in Webster's Chapel for a relief operation called Storm Troopers.

Volunteers, backed by their Facebook page -- Storm Troopers (for Webster's Chapel Tornado Survivors) -- have provided 800 to 1,000 meals per day as well as bedding and personal supplies.

Sylvia Benevides, who lives in Anniston but grew up in Webster's Chapel, helps give leadership to the Storm Troopers ministry.

"We started with one tent we called a canteen center and it's just mushroomed," Benevides said.

Gary Hardin is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist. To view the latest e-edition of the newspaper, visit For information about donations to Alabama Baptists' disaster relief efforts, go to

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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