PERRY–Hurricane Idalia’s strong winds may have toppled the steeple on Lakeside Baptist Church in Perry, but the storm did nothing to topple the faith of Lakeside members.
As the storm unleashed its ferocity on the small rural community Aug. 30, Lakeside Baptist’s tin roof was ripped off and its steeple dashed to the ground.
Pastor Christopher Arnold’s response was a simple three words, “We’re extremely blessed.”
He spoke of how no large oaks surrounding the church came down; only limbs dotted the church yard. Although the tin roof was a tattered mess, the wood under the tin was intact, protecting the interior of the building from water damage. The steeple can be reattached to its proper resting place. There have been no reports of deaths in the community.
“Our faith is strong,” he said. “Our members are out in the community helping their neighbors with clean up.”
Many of the church members, he said, are elderly. Arnold has been at Lakeside Baptist for five years, moving there from northern New York close to the Canadian border, a long way from the threat of hurricanes. Many church members count their relationship with the church in multiple decades. The most senior of his members attest that they have never seen a hurricane of the magnitude of Hurricane Idalia strike their community.
Our faith is strong. Our members are out in the community helping their neighbors with clean up.
Prior to the hurricane’s landfall, Arnold reminded his church members, “Jesus stills the storm.” Lakeside members did not pray for the storm to go somewhere else; they prayed for God’s protection and preservation.
“The power of prayer really works,” Arnold said.
The pastor explained that the church is located in a logging community. Many church members and residents own chainsaws, skidders, loaders and tractors. Within an hour of the storm’s onslaught, neighbors were working side by side–cutting fallen trees and hauling debris. By afternoon almost every road was opened for travel, he said.
And Arnold was right beside his hardworking church members. The pastor is a newly minted Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer. He had no idea that his first “callout” would be to his own community.
Today, FLDR is setting up a disaster relief command center at First Baptist Church of Perry, just a few miles away from Lakeside.
At press time, Arnold is not sure if the church will be able to hold Sunday services on Sept. 3. Electricity is still out. If church members are not in the church building for worship on Sunday, Arnold knows where they will be.
They will be in the community “being” the church, helping their neighbors in need.
For updates on FLDR response, go to facebook.com/FLBaptistDR and flbaptist.org/dr-current-response.