SMITHVILLE – A crowd of about 500 gathered inside and outside a tent erected on the parking lot of Smithville Baptist Church for the 11 am. worship service on Sunday morning to hear pastor Wes White proclaim that the church, not a building, is standing and is alive and well.
The church, like so many other buildings in this community, were destroyed by Wednesday’s tornado.
At the service, there was laughter and hugs as people rejoiced in seeing each other, and tears as they mourned the loss of family, friends and material possessions.
Youth director Todd Summerford opened the service with a song “Because He Lives.” The song says “because Jesus lives we can face tomorrow.” A loud amen and applause resonated throughout the crowd at the close of the hymn.
“The church building is no longer standing,” said Summerford. “We have lost possessions and precious members of this church, but we have one thing – hope.”
After the group sang several songs, White asked the group to welcome each other and guests.
Many county and state officials were on hand to offer their support to the church, town, and its residents.
He also told about the help that had been pouring in from the area, county, state and out of state.
White’s message was from John 11, where Jesus tells Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died, “I am the resurrection,and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die, believest thou this.”
A changed world
“My world and yours changed at 3:47 p.m. on April 27,” White said. “My memory is crystal-clear on what happened. Todd Summerford and I were outside watching the storm. A group from a nearby mobile home park came looking for a place of safety. We went with them into the basement area of the church. Those folks saved our lives. We would not have taken cover if they had not come here.
“When I was lying in bed Wednesday night, I asked why I was alive. Why not me?” he said. “When you don’t know what to do, you know where to go.
“Avoid the land of what ifs. Don’t get into the whys in the weeks ahead. God is a redeeming God and will redeem this moment in our lives.”
He shared stories of church members and how they were saved during the storm. He also said he knew he would again see the members who had lost their lives.
“John 11:35 says, ‘Jesus wept,'” White said. “He gave us permission to weep for our loss.”
White urged people in the crowd who did not believe in Jesus to do it then. “If you have not staked your lives on His promises, become a follower of Jesus,” he said.
After the service, White said, “This was very, very difficult for us, but also a healing for us. Through Jesus Christ, we still have hope.”
A luncheon on the church grounds was held following the morning service.
Alice Ortiz/Monroe Journal