By Britney Glaser, Special to the Baptist Message
LONGVILLE, La. (LBM) – August 27, 2020, will forever be a milestone in the life of the First Baptist Church in Longville, Louisiana.
In the early morning hours, Hurricane Laura – a category 4 storm with 150 mph winds – struck, tearing off the worship center roof, and damaging sur rounding buildings.
The 50 people who had taken refuge in the church found themselves moving from room to room as the roof began to pull free. Then, with the rising of the sun a few hours later, a new reality dawned.
“I knew we needed to get started with something,” Pastor Corey Townsley told the Baptist Message. “We didn’t sleep the night before, but it wasn’t like we could get any rest that day with no power. The destruction was overwhelming. We knew we had to start working and serving. Some got to work at the church grounds, others went out to clear roads and people’s homes.”
Dedication and service is not new to FBC Longville, a congregation that dates to 1907. The church has a longtime Helping Hands ministry that assists members as well as the surrounding community. Several congregants have trained and served with the Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief.
“Immediately after the hurricane, we began using chainsaws to clear driveways and roadways. We set up a command area at the church,” says James Barrow, a deacon and member of Helping Hands. “We started taking and prioritizing work orders. We cut trees off roofs and tarped the damaged areas, set up generators for seniors and disabled.”
A distribution area was set up for donations of canned goods, cleaning supplies, fuels, tarps, and various needs. The church family prepared food for work crews and distributed free meals to the community.
Almost a year to the day of Laura’s landfall, Hurricane Ida –identical in strength to Laura – hit the eastern part of the state. Even though FBC Longville was still in recovery mode, their servant attitude kicked in.
“We sent a team to cook and serve hot jambalaya out of First Baptist Church, Thibodeaux,” FBC Longville Associate Pastor Phillip McDuffie said. “Another time, we took a roofing team that went out and tarped another local church’s facility.”
It took a year to settle with insurance, and with skyrocketing building costs during the delay, FBC Longville faces a pricey rebuild.
Helping Hands saved demolition costs by tearing down the old sanctuary and classrooms. They then sorted the remnants and sold as much as possible for scrap.
Despite the widespread destruction in the community, the congregation only missed meeting one Sunday. They first met in an open field, then a tent.
But sufficient repairs were made to the gym/ life center, and they will hold worship services there for the foreseeable future. Additionally, they converted an old chapel on the grounds from a storage area to a functional meeting place for Bible studies and Sunday School.
The church has sold plate lunches and firewood. Currently, they are selling commemorative bricks to pay for the soaring costs of the new building. Some congregations across the country have donated to the cause, too.
“This building will no doubt help us continue to grow our ministry of being the hands and feet of Christ,” Townsley reflected. “Our members have shown that, without a doubt, as they continue to serve in the midst of our own storm.”
Donations may be made via firstlongville.org.