LAKELAND, Fla.–When a EF-2 tornado ripped their church and north Lakeland community, Mt. Tabor Baptist Church faced the disaster with an approach straight from Daniel 2; trusting in God’s deliverance from danger and having patience for receipt of His favor.
The church was devastated by the Oct. 18 tornado spawned from Tropical Storm Nestor that tore through northwest Polk County. The storm damaged neighboring homes and buildings, downed power lines and uprooted trees.
Also left in ruins was the church’s ministry center that housed the food pantry. Every Thursday, more than 200 persons in the community line up on the church grounds to receive fresh vegetables, meat and dairy products and food commodities.
However, having been founded over 130 years ago on Sept. 11, 1887, the spiritual strength of Mt. Tabor stands resolute.
Almost immediately, the day after the storm, church members and the community came together to help clear the ruins from the battered church building and property and salvage contents from the food pantry. Perishable items were distributed throughout the community.
Then on Sunday, less than 48 hours following the tornado, the church held worship at the former sanctuary of neighboring church, Bethel Baptist Church. There they praised God and celebrated that no lives were lost.
The church has received an outpouring of support from their community and the Florida Baptist Convention reported Matt Gilmore, lead pastor.
“Dr. Tommy Green reached out to us over the weekend to express his concern and to check on us. They have been gracious to assist in covering the [insurance] deductible amount for us.”
According to Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, the funds were made available to the congregation through the generosity of Florida Baptists.
Gilmore has diligently posted gratitude, challenges and progress regarding the storm recovery on the church’s Facebook page.
During a live Facebook video post, the pastor asked for prayers and reminded his congregation that during the Wednesday night prior to the storm, he preached a message called ‘When Opportunity Knocks,’ based on Daniel 2.
“Well, this is our opportunity to love this community and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
He has rallied his congregation and community and Gilmore is determined to prevail, “What we are needing most is continued support from not only the Florida Baptist family but our community that we serve.”
The church is collecting nonperishable foods, diapers and hygiene products for the community and school supplies for nearby Kathleen Middle School, where they have an ongoing partnership. They plan to provide lunch for teachers the week after the storm.
The church is targeting Nov. 7 to reopen its ministry center. They will work with the county to rebuild the ministry center, Gilmore added. He will meet with the County Commissioner on Tuesday at the church to discuss reconstructing the facility.
There is no doubt the Mt. Tabor’s rebuild will serve as inspiration to others facing adversity.
For more information on Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, please follow this link.