Editor’s note: This story was updated March 6, 2020.
By David Dawson
And there are many more still to come for those in the Mount Juliet and Lebanon communities as they deal with the aftermath of the violent storms and tornadoes that ripped through Middle Tennessee in the early morning hours.
But those who’ve been effected by the storms won’t be alone as they journey through the recovery process
Numerous churches in the area have quickly sprung into action, including Victory Baptist Church, Mount Juliet, which is serving as an “official” place of shelter after the deadly storms.
The church, in partnership with the Mount Juliet Police Department, opened its doors to the community on Monday. The church is also providing meals for those in need.
Chuck Groover, senior pastor at Victory Baptist, said there is much devastation in the area, but said he has seen God at work through His people during the early stages of the recovery.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” he said. “But, as Baptist always do, people have really come together to help those who need it. It has been special to see.”
Groover said he has continuously received offers of support — and not just from the local area, but from all over the country.
“We’ve had calls from Iowa and North Carolina and just all around the country, with people asking how they could help,” he said.
First Baptist Church, Mt. Juliet, was among the churches that was hit by the storm, and tragically lost two church members.
“The church and the Mt. Juliet community have really pulled together,” said Phillip Dunn, pastor of FBC, Mt. Juliet, in a statement. “Our greatest pain is with the loss of a dear couple who had been long-time members of First Baptist. We know that buildings and possessions can be replaced, but life is about relationships.”
FBC absorbed a great deal of damage during the storm, he said.
“We are continuing to assess the damage to our facilities,” said Dunn. “A large portion of our campus took a direct hit which also includes Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, a ministry of First Baptist. We are hopeful that we will be able to open up the elementary building of MJCA and have an immediate plan for the secondary school soon. We are still making short-term plans for office space and other ministry needs for the church.”
Like Groover, Dunn said he has been encouraged to see the outpouring of support in the days since the tornado.
“We have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of volunteers who showed up to cut trees, move debris, and pick up trash as part of our initial cleanup efforts,” he said.
FBC is planning to hold worship service this Sunday at Mt. Juliet High School at 10:30 A.M. for one combined service.
David Freeman, pastor of First Baptist Church, Lebanon, said that while FBC was not hit by the storm, many of the church members are dealing with property damage.
“We know of a lot of people who were effected,” he said, “and I am sure we will be hearing of more and more (damage) as we go along.”
Freeman noted that most of the damage “was about four blocks away” from the church. He said he and the other staff members are still in the process of checking on the church members and others in the community to see what needs can be met.
Freeman also said the church has been in contact with the local shelters, and will continue to do so, to see if the church can be of assistance.
Freeman said the area is “pretty rough” and said many houses and buildings lost their roofs. He said he is thankful that – as far as he knows – there are no reports of injuries among the church members from the storm.
At Victory Baptist, Groover said the church has been able to assist several families, and he noted that numerous local business have also offered to help.
“We haven’t had a large number of families, but we have had several, who have come to the church (for shelter),” Groover said. “Several of the (dining) establishments in the area have provided food for us to help serve those in need.”
Groover said it has not yet been decided if the church will serve as an overnight shelter, but said he will continue to be in contact with Wes Jones, DR director at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, to see if that service needs to be provided.
Dunn, at FBC, Mt. Juliet, said: “We are committed to rebuilding as we continue to put our arms around our community. We believe that God is not only a master builder, but He is a master of rebuilding.” B&R