Zion Hill Baptist Church Pastor Will Linginfelter stands while volunteers work in the background. ZHBC/Special
CHATSWORTH — On Easter Sunday, Zion Hill Baptist Church placed a cross made of flowers on its grounds. Delicate in its construction, the purpose was for families to stop by and use it as a backdrop for Easter photos, an attempt at bringing some semblance of normalcy to an Easter where church buildings sat empty.
But storms predicted that night came to fruition and like other Georgians who weathered some 12 tornadoes, Pastor Will Linginfelter and his family took refuge. Seven of the eight dead came in Murray County, where Chatsworth is the county seat. Linginfelter, his wife Melanie, their teenagers Robbie and Rachel, and the family’s miniature schnauzer, Samson, rode out the storm in Melanie’s parents’ basement with other neighbors as well as two more dogs. On this night, social distancing took a momentary back seat.
Zion Hill emerged unscathed from Sunday night’s storms. And, “not a petal” from the cross of flowers fell to the ground, Linginfelter told The Index. However, the story was very much different barely a football field away.
“A bunch of homes were devastated,” he said. “On Monday my wife and I talked about what the church could do. She called some of our ladies and soon people were donating hot dogs and buns. A local grocery store donated many more.
Others joined in. A group from Adairsville smoked chickens on Tuesday. Chick-fil-A gave sandwiches. Various churches from across denominations provided more food and water. Baptist Builders and Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief arrived. Conasauga Baptist Association donated boxes of non-perishable items. All helped feed volunteers moving debris and cutting trees.
“People with no money were donating what they had and helping out. It’s an outpouring of love for each other and a great thing to witness,” said Linginfelter, who teaches with Melanie at nearby Woodlawn Elementary School. Three of their students lost their homes, he added.
Disaster Relief responds to five areas
Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief cleanup and recovery units dispatched to Floyd and Walker counties, where the worst damage occurred, on Monday. State Director Stuart Lang told The Index that in all, seven units travelled to five areas of the state. As of today all but one – in Stephens County – had either shut down or was preparing to do so.
Four weeks of social distancing as well as those out of work almost certainly contributed to a massive response in local volunteers, as Lang pointed to a higher-than-typical number responding to cleanup needs.
“So many pitched in that our units weren’t needed for too long,” he said.
While focusing on the task at hand, Lang noted steps taken due to the coronavirus.
“We’re trying to respect the governor’s wishes in flattening the curve. Nobody on our teams stayed overnight, as they were dispatched within driving distance of the work site. We kept our teams to no more than ten people, and if volunteers were deemed to be high-risk they stayed home,” he pointed out.
“Other ministry areas such as chaplaincy and incident management will be supporting efforts remotely, and volunteer crews will be reimbursed for meals rather than sending in feeders.”
For the first time ever, Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief will hold an online training session this Saturday via Zoom. Slated for 9 a.m.-1 p.m., the orientation will help new volunteers become credentialed and re-credential existing volunteers. Registration deadline is tomorrow, April 16. Click here for more information.
The cleanup in Stephens County came as a result of a tornado that continued its destruction into Seneca, S.C. There, South Carolina Disaster Relief coordinator Randy Creamer reported the damage as widespread. One fatality was recorded in the area.