Matt Hall said he doesn’t know how long his church is going to keep going with tornado relief ministry, but best he can tell, it will be part of their lives for a long time in one form or another.
“We want to be the church that, yes, meets immediate needs, but I also want to be the church who months down the road is still ministering to these people as much as when the storm happened,” said Hall, pastor of Boones Chapel Baptist Church in Prattville.
Over the past several days, the immediate needs part has been the main focus. On Jan. 12, a massive EF3 tornado ripped through their area, killing seven people and destroying and damaging hundreds of homes. The tornado — which stayed on the ground for nearly 77 miles — started in Autauga County and rolled through Elmore, Tallapoosa and Chambers counties. It was one of nine confirmed tornadoes that tore through the central part of the state that day.
And like churches and volunteers in other hard-hit parts of Alabama, Boones Chapel Baptist Church has stepped to the front lines to help.
‘Hands and feet’
“I’ve gotten to meet or speak to a family member of everyone who lost their lives and pray with them,” Hall said. “I’m so humbled to get to be the hands and feet of Jesus on the ground and meet these guys where they are.”
Volunteers from his church and from Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief teams have gone out in the community removing trees from homes, helping with cleanup and talking and praying with those who have been impacted by the storms.
And Boones Chapel Baptist members have been preparing hundreds of meals a day in the church kitchen since the tornado hit, starting with 300 meals Jan. 13 and growing to around 900 meals Jan. 15, Hall said. “We’ve taken addresses where people are who don’t have power and houses are gone or damaged, and teams have delivered all of these meals.”
The church has also become a collection site for water, clothing, tarps, totes and other dry goods. The effort was moved there after it was started by the Marbury Youth League, and people from the community have been able to come in and “shop” in the church gym.
No stranger to storms
“It’s been neat to see it all come together, as we’ve been figuring it out as we go,” he said. “The community has come and been a part of what we’re doing here, donating things and organizing and folding stuff.”
Facing a storm isn’t new for the community or for the church. In April 2011, a tornado tore through the area, damaging the church and killing three church members. Boones Chapel Baptist knows the pain their neighbors are feeling — they’ve walked this road before.
And Hall wants the church to continue to walk alongside the people of their area for the long haul.
“We want to create a community that loves our community, that loves God and loves people, that’s it,” Hall said.