A Foursquare Relief and Compassion ministry team is in northern Arkansas today to offer counseling and relief to 100 members of Botkinburg Foursquare Church, who lost their building in a tornado the evening of Wednesday, April 10.
Along with nearly three-dozen homes, the church building fell victim to a series of storms that touched down in Arkansas and Missouri.
Gary Grubbs, operations chief of Foursquare Chaplains International-Disaster Relief Ministry (FCI-DRM), says a team led by Oklahoma disaster relief Chaplain Jim Birch will assess needs before the ministry formulates its response plan.
Several Botkinburg Foursquare members are reeling after the destruction of two homes and heavy roof damage to a third. The church’s youth pastor, Rocky Thomas—who lives near the church—was one of those who lost his home; fortunately, he had taken shelter elsewhere with family members.
Because of threatening weather reports, Senior Pastor Ester Bass had canceled Wednesday evening services. However, he is still shocked by the loss, telling Gary Grubbs, “I’ve been a pastor for 40 years, and I’ve never been through anything like this.”
Jim Birch has plans to meet with Pastor Ester and assess the needs for the church and the community. Then, he will contact Chad Isenhart, Foursquare’s Relief and Compassion coordinator, and Gary Grubbs to discuss a plan of action.
The Botkinburg Foursquare Church is located on U.S. 65 about 10 miles northwest of Clinton, a rural community where nearly three-dozen homes were destroyed by the storm system that struck northern Arkansas this week.
The only injury reported was to a passing motorist who parked his truck in the church’s drive-through to get out of the dangerous weather. Pastor Ester told CNN that the winds shook the truck as it lifted the roof off the drive-through.
“It was just devastating,” the 63-year-old pastor told CNN. “My wife and I are just torn. We put a lot of sweat and hard work [into the church], and it was paying off. The church was growing.”
There is another Foursquare congregation in the area—Crabtree Foursquare Church, located about 12 miles west of Clinton. However, other than a general loss of power, Gary Grubbs reports that the church did not sustain any damage.
Pastor Ester and church leaders were to meet with their insurance company either Thursday or today. No matter what the adjusters determine, the pastor is grateful for the knowledge that the members will stand with him.
“They are going to buckle down and do what we have to,” Pastor Ester told CNN. “With the Lord’s help, we are going to rebuild.”
Gary Grubbs explains that the response may include work crews, providing chaplains to minister to the church body and community, necessary supplies and resources, and other help.
“Depending on the need and ability to bring in help or teams—without causing more of an issue or taking away resources for those who have been displaced by this tornado—we will respond,” Gary affirms.
For now, Foursquare’s disaster response ministry will wait to hear back from the advance lead chaplain (who also has a construction background) to assess the needs. Then the ministry will respond in an organized structure to act as the hands and feet of Jesus for the community and the church, Gary states. He says this includes all chaplains and other workers obtaining necessary clearance through him or Chad Isenhart.
“This keeps everything in order and helps take the burden off the local church and district,” Gary explains. “We operate as a nationwide command response.”
Discover how The Foursquare Church and the local community are coming together to help. Read "Arkansas Church Finding Hope After Tornado." To donate to relief efforts in Arkansas, visit give.foursquare.org.
By: Ken Walker, an award-winning freelance writer living in Huntington, W.Va.