HOPEFUL — Initial reports of serious church damage throughout Southwest Georgia remain sketchy but associational mission strategists (formerly directors of missions) say that is a good thing.
Numerous AMS said they have “put the word out” to report any serious damage but there has been little, if any response. There are widespread reports of vinyl siding being blown off of sanctuaries and fellowship halls but, with exception of apparent visual structural damage to First Sylvester, churches appear to have emerged unscathed.
Hopeful Baptist Church is the only pastor with damage who was able to respond to calls from The Index due to extremely limited cell coverage. And when Pastor Clay Cloud returned the call, it was repeatedly dropped and the connection was difficult to maintain.
Cloud reports, in addition to the missing vinyl siding on the fellowship hall, “a large patch of roof shingles were torn from the sanctuary roof which allowed a substantial amount of water to be blown into the attic.”
That water, in turn, was soaked up by the acoustical ceiling tiles with several collapsing under the weight. The wet tiles are scattered among the pews and water stains are visible on the ceiling from one end of the sanctuary to the other.
Farming communities facing hard times with loss of cotton, pecan harvests
But for farming communities like Hopeful that pepper the Georgia landscape, the storm will cripple many employers, families who depend on crops or who work the fields … and ultimately churches who receive tithes and offerings based on their employment. The Cooperative Program could also be impacted by a drop in contributions resulting from the damage.
“We thank the Lord that we had no loss of life in our area but we have had a substantial loss of cotton and pecan groves. The cotton has literally been stripped from the bushes and totally blown away, and dozens and dozens of pecan trees are down.
“We are a farming community that largely depends on good weather conditions to provide a good harvest, and cotton and pecan farmers were just weeks away from harvest. I have also heard of several chicken houses that were destroyed.
“Farming is the livelihood of about one-third of our members and they have been hit extremely hard,” Cloud noted.
Hopeful Church averages about 85 in Sunday worship services.
Large swath of state remains totally dark at night
Lee Bradley, Director of Missions/Associational Mission Strategist for Tucker Baptist Association, reported this afternoon that “it is still difficult to determine the extent of any damage due to loss of cell towers with which to place calls or send texts. There are scattered reports of brick veneer or vinyl siding being blown off, but nothing catastrophic.
“The worst part of the storm occurred at night so all churches services were cancelled and no one was in the buildings.”
The most pressing problem residents are dealing with now is the lack of electricity. Bradley noted that last night he drove 120 miles to Columbus and never saw the first street light or illumination in any home or business. It was an eerie total blackout, in his words.
“The entire southwest part of the state is an entire swath of darkness. If people can get out and drive on partially cleared roads, they frequently head to gas stations … only to find there is plenty of gas but no power to pump it out of the tanks,” he added.
A large tree fell on the side of the roof of the associational missions office in Camilla, but the damage was limited.
Tucker Association had planned on observing its 125thanniversary this Sunday and Monday at Southside Baptist Church in Camilla. But the meeting has been postponed until January due to a lack of electricity.
Charles Stoop in Friendship Baptist Association has not received any reports of structural damage. However, Smithville Baptist Church between Albany and Americus opened its doors as a sanctuary from the storm for members or others to gather, especially if they lived in manufactured housing (mobile homes). Only a few responded, but a large tree fell over on two vehicles in the parking lot, missing the building.
A tornado that began in Elko skirted the association and plowed its way through the countryside toward Rupert with no loss of life.
“We just praise the Lord that everything went so well.”