Tallahassee church ministers to neighbors after tornadoes

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TALLAHASSEE–Pastor Jacob Turner said he and several church members felt a little disheartened when it started pouring rain Monday afternoon, May 13, in Tallahassee, interrupting the cleanup work they were doing on church property as a result of the recent tornadoes.

Power was restored to the church on Tuesday, but many of the surrounding homes were still without electricity. The church opened its doors to the community, allowing neighbors to cool off inside and to charge their phones.

But that’s when a group of volunteers with Florida Baptist Disaster Relief pulled up with a trailer full of tools and equipment and got to work at Calvary Baptist Church.

“We really were just worn out,” Turner said. “But then here comes the Florida Baptist Disaster Relief team riding up like John Wayne coming to save the day!”

The team got out in the rain and began removing large trees that had fallen on the church and tarping the new roof that had been damaged. The volunteers got out their tractor and equipment and began cutting up trees and clearing the property. Turner and his guys joined in the efforts.

As they were finishing, a woman from the church brought nine packs of cookies and some chicken strips and everyone began eating. No one said a word, Turner said.

The Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers “brought the peace and the presence of God with them.

Jacob Turner pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Tallahassee

“Then one of the guys led in prayer, and we left, just wet as friends in Christ, as brothers in service to Christ. It was the most awesome thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Turner said. “You could tell they had spent some time in prayer before they came here. They brought the peace and the presence of God with them. It was awesome to see and feel and be a part of.”

‘Listen and affirm’

Turner is pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, which is in the Sabal Palm community on the southwest side of Tallahassee near Sabal Palm Elementary. When Turner first arrived at the church to assess the damage after the tornadoes, he couldn’t even make it to the church for all the downed trees and utility poles. Even worse, he said, some of the homes surrounding the church looked as if they had been destroyed.

Power was restored to the church on Tuesday, but many of the surrounding homes were still without electricity. The church opened its doors to the community, allowing neighbors to cool off inside and to charge their phones. Turner said he wishes the church had a washer and dryer because many residents wanted to do laundry. One church member helped a mother of five by taking her home to do laundry, and the church plans to help others who are similarly in need.

“My biggest and most important job is to listen and affirm. I’m affirming that God is going to take care and work it out.”

Jacob Turner

As he has ministered to those in the neighborhood this week, Turner has become what he called “a professional listener.”

“My biggest and most important job is to listen and affirm. I’m affirming that God is going to take care and work it out,” he said. “People are just frozen in fear. When you drive by and say hello and let them know we are here, we’re giving them a break from the trauma. We’re making new friends.”

The volunteers got out their tractor and equipment and began cutting up trees and clearing the property.

On Wednesday the church held a prayer service outside with music and singing, which attracted a good crowd from the neighborhood. Afterwards church members served a meal, feeding almost 80 people. An organization had donated pulled pork, and church members, including many retirees, came together and prepared hot dogs and hamburgers, nachos with cheese, water, juice and cookies.

‘God made it good’

One of the blessings from this, Turner said, is that people came to the church who previously had not visited. This excites not only the pastor but also his fellow church members.

“This tornado has turned out to be a blessing in disguise because this has gotten our congregation excited about ministry. These are some big God things that God is doing at Calvary,” he said. “We are using this tornado to build bridges with our neighbors.”

Turner said he hopes this will help to start a small group ministry, asking neighbors to commit to holding a five-minute prayer service in their yards, and then grow it from there.

And the two deacons who were helping Turner with the cleanup were so impressed with the Disaster Relief team that they want to get involved and plan to attend the next training session.

In spite of the devastation brought on by the tornadoes, Turner said one of his elderly members reminded him of God’s purpose in all things when she told him, “The devil meant this for bad, but God made it good. We’re going to be alright.”

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