Archives For Brookport

NEWS | Meredith Flynn

“Our town is starting to come back,” said Pastor David Siere. For a year, he has watched Brookport, Ill., recover from a tornado that destroyed several homes and killed three people in Massac County, located at the southern tip of the state.

The storm hit on a Sunday afternoon, part of a tornado outbreak that wreaked havoc all over the state. Siere’s church, First Baptist in Brookport, sits next to a mobile home park that was almost completely destroyed, he said.

But Brookport is rebuilding, and Siere and his church are playing an integral role in the process. The town is starting to look a lot better, he said, and “we’re praising God for what He’s done so far.”

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The Massac Pope County Recovery Committee has helped rebuild five homes since a tornado tore through the region last November. Nine more new houses are under construction. Photo from MPCRC Facebook page

Immediately after the tornado, FBC became Brookport’s ground zero for storm recovery. A ministry facility they had built in 2011 across the parking lot from the main building housed donated food, water and clothing. The pastor sees God’s provision in that building—“I don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t had it.”

Illinois Disaster Relief teams moved quickly into the area to cut down damaged trees and visit with shaken residents. About a week after the tornado, Siere was approached by a city leader about being part of a long-term recovery team. Two of his church members, Bob Craig and Jerry Muniz, also joined the Massac & Pope County Recovery Committee.

So far, volunteer groups working through MPCRC have built five houses in Brookport, and nine more are in process. In August, the first homeowners moved in, including Clark Blasdel, who said he had never been through anything as bad as the tornado, and had never had anything as good happen to him as his new home.

“It’s unbelievable. I’m happy,” Blasdel told WPSD in Paducah, Ky.

The work of the committee is funded through grants and donations, combined with money provided to residents by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Their goal is two-fold: To provide housing for people who were displaced after the tornado, and to make Brookport a better place to live. In doing so, the team, which includes members of local churches, is also looking out for the spiritual well-being of their town.

“We keep God at the center of it, and I think that’s what makes a difference,” said Craig, noting that without God, it would be difficult to keep a sweet, loving attitude. The committee’s meetings start with prayer and Scripture reading, and they recently sponsored a “gospel sing” on the one-year anniversary of the
storm.

Craig, who pastored FBC Brookport before Siere, told around 200 attenders that with all the safety precautions people take—like storm shelters and weather radios—there’s a greater safety to be found in Christ. “You might not make it through another circumstance like this, and you need to have that provision taken care of,” he said.

When asked if there are stories from the past year that stand out, Craig recalls one young man whose mobile home rolled over several times during the storm, even as his wife and child were inside. They were bruised and banged up, Craig said, but survived. And the young man gave his heart to Christ.

“It was such a thrill, because it was a son-in-law of a long-time brother in Christ that I’ve known many years.”

To God be the glory
After the tornado, Siere was unsure what to put on the church sign, in light of everyone who had done so much to help Brookport. He settled on a simple message: “Thank you, everybody.”

Certainly, many are thanking the church in return. All of the houses built through the recovery committee have been constructed by volunteer workers, and those workers are fed at the church through the efforts of a woman from Metropolis who coordinates the meals. She was looking for a way to help and, Siere
said, “God led her here.”

The volunteer teams have slowed down for the winter; one group is scheduled for late December and one in January. But as the weather warms up, the committee expects more people will come to help.

When they started a year ago, eight houses was set as a goal, Siere said, and “God has seen fit for us to do a lot more than that.” The number 23 has come up, but whether or not the committee is able to see that many projects through, they want to help as many people as possible get a place to live.

Ultimately, he said, they want God to get the glory.

“We meet once a week still, here at the church, and as we’re seeing things happen, we just thank God because it has to be a God thing.”

People in Washington, Ill., say two things when they talk about the tornado that stunned this city of 15,000 on Sunday: Pictures don’t accurately capture the destruction. And, this is the kind of thing that happens to other people. But on November 17, it happened here.

“You see it, and you think, ‘I’ve seen this on TV before.’ It’s always on TV. But this is real. This is us,” says Susan Schildt as she sat with a bowl of soup in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church in Washington. She and others working to salvage what they can came by today for lunch, prepared by church members and served buffet style. Pastor Joshua Monda publicized the free meal on Facebook.

The Schildts’ home is no longer liveable. Susan was at church Sunday morning, talking to her husband, Donald, on the phone, when the line suddenly went dead. He hunkered under an overturned couch while their son, Daniel, took cover in a walk-in closet. The family reunited soon after the storm.

“We’re alive; that’s all that matters,” she told a friend at lunch today. “It’s all stuff. I keep telling myself it’s just stuff.”

Phil Jones is another member of FBC that lost his home. He stands outside the, talking on his cell phone. He breaks away from his conversation long enough to say he’s doing OK, that he’s living on adrenaline right now. But as soon as that ends, he plans to crash, he says it with a smile.

Roland Manor Baptist Church across town is serving as an incident command center for Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief. Eight volunteers from Sullivan Southern Baptist Church and Westfield Association worked in Washington today, clearing debris and putting tarps on roofs. They’re working against the clock – rain is in the forecast for the next few days. Six more volunteers from Capital City and Sandy Creek Associations are at work in Pekin, 20 miles to the southwest, and another crew in Peoria is cooking meals for these volunteers and for other storm responders and victims.

Recovery work here in Washington is slow, as crews work to remove downed power lines and police keep the most damaged neighborhoods blocked off to everyone except residents. At the incident command center, Harold Booze and Bob Elmore are working to coordinate individual jobs for the volunteers that are here now, and another crew from Salem South Association arriving tonight.

At the other end of the state, Disaster Relief volunteers are working in and around Brookport, where a tornado Sunday killed three people and destroyed dozens of homes. First Baptist Church, Metropolis, is preparing 300 meals a day to be delivered by the Red Cross.

Volunteers from Kaskaskia Association also assisted homeowners in New Minden, Ill., seven miles north of Nashville.

To donate to Illinois Disaster Relief, go to www.IBSA.org.

A Disaster Relief volunteer in southern Illinois takes care of a felled tree in southern Illinois.

A Disaster Relief volunteer in southern Illinois takes care of a felled tree in southern Illinois.

Volunteers started serving  in and around Brookport, Ill., almost immediately after the Nov. 17 storms.

Volunteers started serving in and around Brookport, Ill., almost immediately after the Nov. 17 storms.

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Donald and Susan Schildt visit with Carole Vanderburg (right) over lunch at First Baptist Church in Washington. The Schildts’ home is uninhabitable after the storm.

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A message of thanks on a store sign in Washington, Ill.

 

Volunteers get ready to serve lunch at FBC Washington.

Volunteers get ready to serve lunch at FBC Washington.

Whole neighborhoods in Washington are completely destroyed. Police have several streets blocked off to everyone except residents.

Whole neighborhoods in Washington are completely destroyed. Police have several streets blocked off to everyone except residents.

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Ed Dean, a Diaster Relief volunteer from Sullivan, Ill., gathers debris from a backyard in Washington, Ill., on Nov. 20.

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This is only the second callout for Disaster Relief volunteer Johnna Howard.

This is only the second callout for Disaster Relief volunteer Johnna Howard.

Bob Elmore (left), who's helping coordinate DR efforts in Washington, meets on the job site with Bob Jackson from Sullivan.

Bob Elmore (left), who’s helping coordinate DR efforts in Washington, meets on the job site with Bob Jackson from Sullivan.

Washington, Ill., Nov. 20.

Washington, Ill., Nov. 20.