But not spirit at Cumberland
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
LEBANON – An early morning fire on Sept. 3 destroyed the Baptist Collegiate Ministries building at Cumberland University here, but it did not destroy the spirit of those involved with the BCM.
“There are no accidents with God,” observed Dave Shelley, director of missions for Wilson County Baptist Association, which owns the BCM building. “There will be good that comes out of this,” he affirmed.
Evan Owens, BCM director at Cumberland, was notified of the fire at 5:15 a.m. by Tyler Smith, BCM president, and Nick Sackman, BCM vice president, who lived in the BCM residence apartment upstairs.
Both students escaped the building unharmed but lost all their personal possessions, Owens said.
“I’m thankful they were not hurt. It’s a blessing. We can replace their stuff,” he observed.
While the building is not on the Cumberland campus, it is just across the street from the fine arts building. An older house, the facility formerly served as the senior adult center in Lebanon before being purchased by the association in 1997 for the BCM. It has been used by the BCM since 2000.
In just a short time, Cumberland University officials were on hand to offer help and support, along with others from the community including many representatives from Wilson County churches who gathered to pray.
“We are thankful for everyone’s support,” Shelley said.
Fire crews responded to the scene quickly but the fire had begun to spread, Owens said. It took about four hours to extinguish the fire, he noted. The firefighters included at least three former Cumberland BCM members, according to reports.
Chris Dowell, chief of the Lebanon Fire Department and a member of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, said the preliminary ruling is the fire was caused by a lightning strike. There were severe storms in the area the night before.
Darrin Reynolds, student pastor at nearby Immanuel Baptist Church and a member of the association’s BCM committee, was on the scene. “It looks bleak today,” admitted Reynolds, who was a member of the BCM when the building first opened.
“But, I know God has great plans for the BCM here,” Reynolds continued. “We will gather, regroup, and see where God takes us,” he added.
Cumberland University has offered space for the BCM on campus in the interim period, Shelley said. The BCM will meet on campus temporarily until the association decides what to do, he said.
Shelley said no one will be allowed to enter the building until next week due to safety concerns. The building is insured, he said.
Owens said he planned to get the students together on Wednesday, Sept. 4, to pray and “let them know we are still here.”
The BCM director kept the tragedy in perspective. “We will keep going. It’s just a building. We can keep ministering,” he pledged.
Bill Choate, director of BCM for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said the convention is proud of “the work Wilson County Baptist Association does to reach college students at Cumberland University.
“I know that they will rally to continue their ministry on campus,” he said.