By Carl Stagner
One hundred fifty-five miles per hour. That’s how powerful Hurricane Michael’s winds were when the Category Four monster made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, on October 10. Meteorologists are calling the storm the strongest to ever hit the continental United States since Hurricane Andrew of 1992. In its wake, Michael left behind widespread catastrophic damage, leveling homes and businesses, and claiming the lives of at least nineteen, as the search for missing persons continues. The Church of God was not left unscathed; to date, two congregations have reported damage to their church building and their homes. As information continues to be collected by state ministry offices and Church of God Ministries, Church of God congregations across the country are already responding to the imminent and critical needs of funds, supplies, time, and labor.
What we know
*UPDATE, as of October 31 (an e-mail to Church of God Ministries from Pastor Grant Powell of Panama City First Church of God):
We’ve been blessed with supplies and emergency relief. Groups have come to our aid from south Florida. A group of seven are with us this week from Indiana (a rake brigade – providing yard clean-up). Other out-of-state groups have expressed interest in coming soon and into 2019. Supplies are holding up well. We have had several large trailers filled with food, water, cleaning supplies, diapers, wipes, tarps, etc. The challenge, is knowing what the next needs will be as circumstances change from week to week.
Our small church campus has become an active hub in the community, as we’ve been blessed by generous group and individual donations, providing essential necessities. The ministry opportunities have been incredible.
Remarkably, 80 percent of Bay County has had utilities restored. Therefore, ice and water are no longer critical needs, and most roofs are covered with tarps. The tree debris is still in great quantity and removal from the curb hasn’t begun in our church’s neighborhood.
Laborers (arborists, electricians, carpenters, roofers, etc.) are greatly needed.
It’s a long, difficult road to recovery, but we see evidence daily of our rising from the ashes. Thank you for your prayers and assistance!
UPDATE, as of October 26, an e-mail from Panama City First Church:
Panama City First Church of God has been privileged to serve our community with relief and recovery efforts since Wednesday, October 17. Due to the gracious and generous gifts of resources from so many agencies and friends, we have been privileged to serve several hundred neighbors and church family members since Michael devastated our community on October 10.
Many in our immediate neighborhood are still short on resources. Most stores and businesses in our county and neighboring counties are not operational. Many are without means to travel to outlying areas that are more functional to retrieve supplies. Additionally, gasoline and discretionary funds are in short supply as many have not been able to return to their jobs.
The items listed below are flying off our tables as we attempt to minister and assist our neighbors.
If you are collecting donations or planning a delivery, these are needed A.S.A.P.
* Fruit Cups
* Canned Meat
* Jelly (we have some peanut butter)
* Granola Bars & Trail Mix
* Fresh Fruit
* Crystal Light Flavored Packs (or similar)
* Individual creamers for coffee
* Yard & Garden Rakes
* Wheelbarrows & Yard Carts
* Broad “flat shovels”
* Contractor Trash Bags
* Lysol – PineSol
* Laundry & Dish Detergent
* Clothes Pins
* Cleaning Rags (bag of rags)
* Mops & Brooms
* Rubber Gloves
* Aspirin (adult & children)
* General First Aid Supplies
Original text, October 16, 2018:
Church of God Ministries has been in touch with Ken Love of Florida Church of God Ministries; Tim Teague in Alabama; Jason McLendon in Georgia; and Mike Claypool of Carolina Ministries. To this point, we’ve received no reports of damage from Church of God congregations in Alabama or the Carolinas, where assessment from Hurricane Florence is ongoing. In the Florida panhandle, where the only Church of God congregation is in Panama City, significant damage has been reported (the next closest congregation is in Tallahassee). First Church of God in Bainbridge, Georgia, has also reported damage.
Grant Powell, pastor of First Church of God in Panama City, issued the following statement:
On October 10, 2018, Panama City First Church of God found itself in the crosshairs of Hurricane Michael. Every single member of our 30-plus church family has experienced some damage, loss, or complete devastation. Some have been displaced from our community. Some are now homeless and staying in shelters or with friends or family. Some have lost their businesses. Some have lost their places of employment. Our church building has suffered some structural damage. Every member has suffered loss.
We are located in Millville, a small “papermill” community in Panama City. There is much poverty in our area, and much homelessness and the problems that go with that. The neighborhood that surrounds our church is one of the poorest in Panama City. They are the hardest to reach and not close to many of the distribution centers where supplies are available. We have an INCREDIBLE opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, who met the physical needs of those he came in contact with while addressing the spiritual needs. There are homes to tarp, meals to provide, businesses to rebuild. The fields are white unto harvest.
On Monday, the Panama church added the following plea on Facebook:
Now is the time when HANDS AND FEET are appreciated…chainsaw gangs, tarps, food, water, ice, gasoline, generators, daily necessities…all of these are DESPERATELY needed. We have an opportunity to physically minister to very poor…very needy…very devastated neighborhoods.
Rick Kohl, pastor of First Church of God in Bainbridge, Georgia, reports “significant” damage to the roof after giant trees were toppled by the storm’s severe winds. Carpets and some of the church’s pews are wet, and the building is still without power. Among the congregation, there are many whose homes and cars were damaged.
Even in the midst of an ongoing nightmare, the light of Christ has already shone in the darkness. Pastor Rick reports that the crew that removed the fallen tree from the church building couldn’t reach Panama City due to blocked roadways. The only hotel room they could find was in Bainbridge. Through a divine set of circumstances, the chairman of the church board was able to witness to the crew leader, who had been angry at God and running from the Lord for a long time. The crew leader responded, “You have sparked my rediscovery of God.” Pastor Rick reflects, “In the midst of this destruction, we believe God paved the way for this crew to get to Bainbridge First Church of God for that purpose!”
What you can do
The need is tremendous, and the need is imminent.
Donate funds online at www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief or send a check to Church of God Ministries, PO Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018—be sure to write “Michael Relief” on the memo line to assign your gift accordingly. Rest assured that 100 percent of your gift will be utilized for disaster relief.
Mobilize a work team: contact Florida Church of God Ministries at firstname.lastname@example.org, 407-737-7633, or by visiting their website at www.flcog.org. Large tarps, duct tape, bottled water, generators, trucks with trailers, chainsaws, and people to provide hot meals are needed. Skilled labor is a bonus, but at this point anyone who can use their hands and feet to help with cleanup is desired. Please note: work teams need to be self-sustaining.
If you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. John M. Johnson, disaster relief coordinator at Church of God Ministries: 800-848-2464, ext. 2107, or by e-mail at JJohnson@chog.org. Thank you for your prayerful and financial support!
Great news! Did you know that the first $10,000 from Church of God Disaster Relief has just been cleared to go to help First Church of God in Panama City? Praise the Lord! Thank you for your donations which make it all possible! Learn more and donate at https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief.