Known as a laid-back, friendly fishing village, the quaint community of Horseshoe Beach, Florida, found itself directly in the path of Hurricane Idalia’s 125 mph winds and 10-foot storm surge. The catastrophic devastation has left the fishing and boating community in pieces.
Picking up some of those pieces is Robin Hoffman. Hoffman’s family has owned a home in Horseshoe Beach since the early 1970s and he is a longtime member of First Baptist Church Horseshoe Beach — the only local church within 20 miles.
Having trained as a Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer and served in the aftermath of dozens of natural disasters for more than 20 years, Hoffman compared Hurricane Idalia’s devastation of the Horseshoe Beach community to the 1993 “Storm of the Century,” that also formed over the Gulf of Mexico and left catastrophic damage and storm surge in the same region.
“Coming back into town, the destruction was immediately apparent,” Hoffman described. “Fridges and couches had been swept to the middle of the street, and some of my neighbors’ homes have just vanished. In looking around, Idalia is twice what the 1993 Storm of the Century was in this area.”
The church didn’t escape the storm’s destructive path. Damages to the church facility and parsonage are extensive.
With many of the 30-name church membership list remaining evacuated until power is restored to the area, Hoffman and her husband are springing into action and calling for help as they seek to pick up the pieces and recover what is left of their church facility and parsonage.
Leaders from Lafayette Baptist Association and Patrick Coats, East region catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, were some of the first on the scene assessing damage and seeking to serve the small Baptist church and hard-hit community.
“It was heartbreaking to see and stand in the midst of devastation. My wife and I got the opportunity to pray and encourage Robin Hoffman from First Baptist Horseshoe Beach. I’m grateful for our Florida Baptist family’s heart in coming beside churches. We know our God is the God of restoration,” said Coats.
Also seeking to come alongside the devastated church is Joppa Baptist Church, located in neighboring Trenton. After assessing the damage just one day after Idalia, the church has begun the restoration process and seeks to be a helping hand and to “stick around” long after the work is completed.
“Southern Baptists have been so good to us,” Hoffman said. “They have made it bearable because we know help is on the way. We’re not alone.”
Hurricane Idalia’s landfall came just as the church was preparing to welcome its new pastor after being without a pastor for more than a year. Church members are determined not to allow Hurricane Idalia to put a damper on things as they attempt to salvage what is left of the parsonage.
Having come two weeks ago to move 90% of their personal belongings, the Tennessee pastor and his wife are set to begin their ministry at the church on Sept 5. Already seeing the damage done to the pastor’s new appliances, Hoffman and her husband are hard at work drying out the pastor’s books, salvaging what they can of their personal belongings, and trying to find a temporary place for the new pastor to live.
Aside from the parsonage, the church also suffered damage as it obtained more than five feet of storm surge. The small congregation lost its piano, pews and sound system, and many of their Bibles and hymnals were left floating away in Idalia’s aftermath.
Nonetheless, Hoffman said the hurricane can’t destroy their love for their “tight-knit” community and mission to be “the lighthouse” of Horseshoe Beach.
“Even though our church is small, 30 members on a good Sunday, the community depends on us,” Hoffman said. “We truly are the lighthouse for 20 miles.”
And the church is letting its light shine amid the heartbreak. On the Sunday morning immediately following Hurricane Idalia’s assault on the community, under clear blue skies, church members and community residents gathered on Horseshoe Beach to worship God.