Today will be a challenging day for members of Botkinburg Foursquare Church as they greet insurance adjusters and a Foursquare Relief and Compassion ministry team. Both groups are in northern Arkansas to survey tornado damage that wiped out the church’s 10-year-old building.
However, thanks to the overwhelming gestures of support from the Foursquare family, the community and strangers passing through, Pastor Ester Bass’ faith is stronger than ever.
“The overflow of love from people and concern for people is the big miracle that I’ve seen happen,” says Pastor Ester, a pastor for 43 years. “For people to do what these people have done is just a tremendous feeling.”
The gestures started the morning after the Apr. 10 storm with David Coffey, district supervisor for the six-state MidSouth District of The Foursquare Church, based in San Antonio, Texas. Contemplating the destruction before leaving his house, Pastor Ester didn’t look forward to returning to the church property—until David Coffey called.
“Brother Coffey had compassion and showed compassion for our congregation,” says the pastor, who met the district supervisor years ago while studying church polity. “The message from him was so timely, we felt better and were able to make it through the day. We felt better by the end of the day.”
Two other events that took place Apr. 11 also bolstered his spirits and those of members who came to salvage what they could from the debris.
One involved a neighbor who had never been to the church, but came over to offer his sympathy and a $200 donation. A woman from Wisconsin returning home stopped when she saw the devastation and gave Pastor Ester $20.
“That may not sound like a lot, but it’s the gesture that is overwhelming to you,” Pastor Ester says of the woman’s gift. “It’s just amazing the compassion that people have. All the time you hear about the bad, but there’s a lot of good in people, too.”
The pastor also detects the miraculous hand of God during the storm.
Two people in a pickup who got overtaken by the storm pulled into Botkinburg Foursquare’s parking lot and under a drive-through that had a tall steeple on it. Although the tornado took out the drive-through and shook the pickup, the only damage it sustained was a broken window.
About the same time, the storm overtook the driver of a semi-truck headed in the same direction. Although the tornado picked up the semi and twirled it around, it came to rest on the church parking lot without a scratch.
“That just had to be God,” Pastor Ester affirms.
This experience has boosted the 63-year-old pastor’s faith. Although part of him wants to cry because of the loss, another part is overwhelmed at how God is using circumstances and people to let the congregation know that everything is going to be all right.
The loss of the building is particularly acute, considering Botkinburg Foursquare’s history. Only started about 15 years ago, the church had just a handful of members and met in a small building across the street when Ester became pastor in 2001. However, growth prompted the congregation to erect a new home in 2003.
Pastor Ester acknowledges that in such circumstances it is easy to wonder what is the purpose for such tragedies; but, he says, one member in his 80s made a profound statement the day after the tornado.
“He said, ‘I believe God did this to bring us closer together and let people know He’s doing something important with the church and Van Buren County,' " Pastor Ester explains. “That pretty well summed it up for me. We see His hand working, and it's increased all of our faith.”
To donate to relief efforts in Arkansas, visit give.foursquare.org.
By: Ken Walker, an award-winning freelance writer living in Huntington, W.Va.