A strong line of severe storms on April 27 spawned multiple tornadoes in the states of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, wreaking destruction and devastation on some Church of God congregations.
The latest AP reports indicate that more than 200 people are dead in six states in the deadliest outbreak in 40 years.
Investigations are incomplete, but preliminary reports the morning following the weather event indicate that in Alabama alone, two Church of God churches were destroyed, and six others, as well as several parsonages were damaged. State Overseer John Childers was on his way to the affected areas this morning from Mobile.
First assessments from north Georgia indicate no Church of God congregations were damaged, although the city of Ringgold, Ga., received massive damage along Interstate 75. Across the border in Tennessee, the headquarters city of Cleveland received widespread damage and power outages and nine deaths were reported across the county. As of Thursday morning, there were no reports of damage to local churches or the Church of God International Offices, however the offices were closed to allow employees to cope with what local officials are billing as the worst devastation in the city’s history.
Operation Compassion, a benevolent agency with ties to the Church of God, mobilized as soon as the storms hit, activating their plan of emergency response. According to OC Director Dave Lorency, nine semi trucks of relief supplies are en route to the worst areas in Alabama including Tuscaloosa, which has no power, water or equipment, Cullman and Trenton. OC is equipped to provide 3,000 meals per day and will distribute bottled water, and supply mobile kitchens, shower trailers, campers and freezer trucks with ice and other supplies. They will also be working with God’s Pit Crew, another group associated with the Church of God that assists in large scale clean up operations.
To place the disaster into perspective, Lorency said, “With the exception of Hurricane Katrina and the Indonesian tsunami, this is the largest single relief effort I have ever seen in the 11 years I have been with Operation Compassion.”
General Overseer Raymond Culpepper and First Assistant General Overseer Tim Hill will be traveling to the affected areas this weekend to assess the damage in person.
More information will be posted on Faith News as it becomes available. In the meantime, please keep those in the path of destruction in your thoughts and prayers. Monetary relief donations can be accepted online by visiting www.operationcompassion.org.
Cameron Fisher, Church of God Communications