More than 150 members of the church's congregation and members of the community gathered to see the Rev. Wes White and the church's building committee break ground on a spacious new facility. The new building will replace the church that was completely destroyed in the deadly tornado that hit Smithville a year ago this month.
"This is an incredibly special day for us," White said. "We feel like we're beginning to return home."
Immediately following the tornado, the 300-member church first met in a tent on the church property. Then Smithville Baptist shared space with another church in Amory and then remodeled two warehouses for its use.
The new facility includes wings for children and adults, and the teens chose to build a worship facility rather than a gym. The new building has seating for 500, so there's opportunity for growth, White said.
"This signals a new beginning," he said.
In addition to the groundbreaking, complete with hard hats and gold shovels, Smithville Baptist held its first Sunday night service at the new church's location. The service included hymns like "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," a dedication and short sermon.
White thanked the church's building and planning commissions for their work on the new building.
"They thought not for today, not for tomorrow - they thought for generations," he said.
As the sermon drew to a close, White thanked his congregation for its work and prayers thus far but encouraged everyone to remain strong.
"The work is just beginning," he said. "We will build a facility that will honor God in Smithville, Mississippi."
Smithville Mayor Gregg Kennedy was on hand to celebrate the new home of Smithville Baptist.
"We had four out of our five churches wiped out," he said. "Churches are vital to our community and our long-term recovery, to get back to a sense of the way things were. They're a part of our rebuilding process and our healing process."
Up next for Smithville is a new sports complex.
"This is looking to be, all over, a very exciting summer for Smithville," Kennedy said.