By Michael Smith
Churches throughout the greater Brandon area have been meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the people in the community affected by Hurricane Irma.
Here is a sampling of how these churches are being ‘the hands and feet’ of Jesus to those hurting after the storm:
Bell Shoals Baptist Church
Bobby Roberts, Pastor of Adult Education and Missions, said Bell Shoals asked members to let the church know when they saw people in need and the church has worked to mobilize members in response to those needs.
“We are looking for ways to mobilize people to help in other hurricane-devastated areas as we work to follow Jesus, love people and make disciples, which is our mission statement,” said Roberts.
The church has done three full mud-outs (flood recovery) locally. Teams from Bell Shoals also served many other families in mud-out type work in the Lithia Springs area as they served beside and under the leadership of FishHawk Fellowship Church.
In addition to the mud-outs, Roberts reports that the church has helped many people with trees that fell on their houses or in their yards to clear the trees to allow them to repair their home and restore electricity.
Meanwhile, Bell Shoals Senior Pastor Stephen Rummage and his wife, Michele, have led the congregation in ongoing efforts to pray for their community’s full restoration—physically and spiritually.
“I’m grateful for how folks at Bell Shoals have responded in the wake of the storm,” said Pastor Rummage. “They have given resources, money and hundreds of hours of hard work in helping our neighbors recover. I’m so glad to be the pastor of a church that really loves people.”
Bay Life Church
“The recent impacts of Hurricane Irma left many in our church family, and others in the community, without power and in need of support to make repairs and help in the cleanup effort,” said Bay Life Communications Director Stephen Stough. “Leading up to and throughout the storm, Bay Life Church set up a website to communicate storm information from the National Hurricane Center and provide helpful links for best practices provided by federal and state emergency organizations.
“Afterward, our hurricane webpage helped us to collect information from those in our church and surrounding community on how we could help them.”
Bay Life teams made up of more than 40 volunteers went around helping with debris removal, raking, and cutting and removing downed trees from homes throughout the community.
“As a church family, Bay Lifers are always looking for opportunities to share God’s love in tangible ways and care for those around us,” Stough said. “Our teams were a blessing to many in our area and a component that contributed to speeding the cleanup process and lending a helping hand to those in need.”
The Chapel At FishHawk
The day before the hurricane hit, the church held a prayer service in which people cried, prayed and praised God. Many families in the congregation housed others from evacuation zones during the storm, said church member Erika Pettet.
After the storm Pettet said that the church rallied behind the concept of #BeTheHands, partnering with local nonprofits to meet the needs of the community. The church was open during the afternoons for families without electricity to cool off, watch movies, eat popcorn and make crafts. It donated food to Seeds of Hope for the Alafia River community. It partnered with Operation Lotus, the YMCA and Family Promise to offer showers and shelter. Church members helped an Alafia family in a flooded home with removal of damaged furniture, drywall, cabinetry and salvageable items. They also collected gift cards and distributed them to the Alafia family and Operation Lotus.
Several other churches in the area, including the Presbyterian Church of Bloomingdale, have participated in hurricane relief. For information about the efforts of The Crossing Church, visit its website at wearecrossing.com/hurricane.
Although it has been nearly two months since the hurricane hit, many people are still in the recovery process. Check with your church to see how you can help. It could make an eternal difference.