Youth groups aid tornado-battered county
CROPWELL, Ala. (BP)--An Alabama-based youth ministry -- helping St. Clair County to come "storming back" from the April 27 tornado that destroyed 300 homes and took 13 lives -- organized 18 rebuilding projects in June involving dozens of youth groups.
But youth weren't the only ones involved in the disaster relief effort in the county's Shoal Creek Valley community, said Jeff Huey, director of Extreme Ministries, an organization based in Cropwell, Ala., that assists churches in sharing the Gospel through drama, praise and worship, evangelism, discipleship and construction projects.
Huey, an Alabama Baptist disaster relief volunteer, contacted state convention leaders to see if disaster relief feeding units could prepare meals for the youth. While the young people replaced roofs, built wheelchair ramps and even started rebuilding some homes from the ground up, six disaster relief volunteers from Morgan Baptist Association provided them with three meals a day the first week of the June 5-25 initiative.
More than 70 youth from Bethel Baptist Church in Odenville, Ala., made up the bulk of the volunteers that week.
A year ago, "we didn't know ... where we would go [for a youth missions trip], but once the disaster in St. Clair County came, we knew we had a focus," youth minister Brad Tollison said.
The disaster also changed the plans of the youth group at Crestway Baptist Church in Birmingham.
"Our youth were scheduled to go to Chattanooga on a fun trip. But the youth themselves chose to work this week close to home," said Bill Ezelle, an adult worker who accompanied the youth.
Maria Wall, another Crestway youth worker, said, "I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if we used all this money to go on a fun, out-of-town trip when there was so much need and heartache in our own area."
Disaster relief feeding units from Limestone and Tuscaloosa Baptist associations in Alabama were scheduled to prepare meals for the second and third weeks of the project. Coosa River and St. Clair Baptist associations were providing shower units.
The youth began each day with breakfast and a devotion before heading to the job sites. After showering and eating dinner, they attended a nightly praise and worship service. They took their meals and bedded down in Ragland High School's lunchroom and gym.
"It's really special having the school available, and their kitchen facilities are first-class," said Tom Bennich, a member of First Baptist Church in Hartselle, Ala., one of Morgan association's disaster relief leaders.
As the youth lined up for breakfast and dinner, the volunteers talked with them, learning many of their names during the course of the week. After eating, many youth thanked and hugged each cook.
The youth were on pace to accomplish even more than Huey first envisioned. "Our rebuild projects are going much better than expected," Huey said in mid-June. "We have finished three of the nine original projects and have added nine more new ones."
Gary Hardin is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist. To view the latest e-edition of the newspaper, visit online.thealabamabaptist.org.