Photo Source: Kentucky Today
ARCADIA–After enduring 150-mph winds and dangerous flooding from two of the most intense hurricanes to ever make landfall in Florida, Calvary Baptist Church in Arcadia has maintained strength through the storms and continued to minister and share the gospel in its community and beyond.
“Calvary Baptist is a generous and loving congregation,” said Pastor Chuck Poe.
In August 2004 when Poe was serving as Calvary youth pastor, Category 4 Hurricane Charley unleashed its fury on the rural community located 50 miles inland from the Gulf Coast.
Devastation was widespread. The town’s water tower was toppled. Mobile homes were destroyed. Private airplanes were upended. Although intense, Hurricane Charley was in and out of Arcadia in just a few minutes, leaving heartbreaking bits and pieces of residents’ everyday lives behind.
The church immediately began serving its neighbors in need as the community began the long process of recovery.
We experienced Charley and learned from it. I did not expect to have to reflect and reuse those experiences again.
“We experienced Charley and learned from it. I did not expect to have to reflect and reuse those experiences again,” Poe said.
Until he had to.
In September 2022–18 years and one month after Hurricane Charley’s assault on the community–Category 4 Hurricane Ian roared into Arcadia. Poe, who had relocated from Florida to serve churches in Kentucky for a few years, had just returned as Calvary Baptist Church’s lead pastor in January 2022.
Poe and his wife, Samantha, stayed put in their home as Hurricane Ian made landfall because they knew they would be needed after the storm. This time Arcadia was in the eye of the storm, which continued its barrage of damaging wind and torrential rain for hours.
The Peace River, anything but peaceful, overflowed its banks, flooding and even washing out roads. Poe was
marooned in his home for days, finally able to make his way to the church via airboat several days later.
Within days, Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief, joined by teams from Tennessee, Alaska and South Carolina, arrived and set up a mass feeding kitchen at the church and assisted with doing chainsaw work, covering roofs with tarps and completing general cleanup–all while sharing the gospel.
The volunteer teams served in partnership with Florida Baptist Disaster Relief teams who were scattered throughout the state in other hard-hit communities.
Calvary Baptist Church members also pitched in to help. Many church members helped organize and distribute supplies, helping wherever and whenever needed. “Our people became crucial” in hurricane recovery efforts, Poe said.
We are learning and maturing into what God wants us to be.
Today, close to 20 years since Hurricane Charley and more than a year after Hurricane Ian, Calvary Baptist Church continues to be intentional in its mission to “preach the Word, depend on God to bring the increase, knock on doors and visit people,” Poe said. “God will give the increase, and He will also bring the people that He wants to be a part of Calvary Baptist Church.”
The Arcadia church, he said, is a healthy congregation that regularly practices what it wants to be known for–a church that loves God and loves people, which is lived out through intentional prayer, church visitation and reaching the next generation of children and youth.
“We believe that going and sharing are a necessity,” he said.
The church, with 140 in out-of-season weekly attendance, is active in its community, assisting in various area events and partnering with the local sheriff’s department and other local churches.
Beyond its own community, Calvary Baptist Church has commissioned a family from the congregation to be International Mission Board missionaries in Botswana, Africa. The church gives generously to the Cooperative Program. It also has established a missions team to better “support all missions, ministries and annual mission offerings” such as the Maguire State Mission Offering, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and is planning short-term mission trips “that encourage the church and those they are ministering to,” Poe said.
With a church building project on the horizon, Poe believes that a new entrance, lobby, welcome center, kitchen and bathrooms will result in reaching more people for Christ.
Through the years Poe has served Calvary Baptist Church, first as youth pastor (1998-2007) and now as lead pastor, he said the church has learned to “just be available so that God can use you,” even amid life’s storms.
“I still believe we are learning and maturing into what God wants us to be,” Poe said. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-13, “We are reaching forward.”