The mile-wide path of destruction left behind after an EF-4 tornado rumbled across Coweta County, Georgia in March was nearly beyond imagination.
Some 1,700 homes were damaged by the 170 mph winds, 70 of which were beyond repair. Cars were scattered around like Hot Wheels toys. Trees were uprooted all over the city of Newnan.
In the mangled aftermath, members of a chainsaw crew from Faith Baptist Church in the small north Georgia community of Bowman found a silver lining.
Pastor Jamie Callaway and a group of his church members had the task of removing downed trees. But instead of landfilling the debris, they decided to turn it into firewood to help needy families heat their homes this winter.
With cold weather approaching, Callaway and members of Faith Baptist delivered 20 tons of tornado-ravaged firewood to the Ramah Navajo Reservation near Pine Hill, New Mexico.
Callaway had visited the reservation last year with a team of Georgians, delivering a load of food to help Native American families dealing with the COVID pandemic.
“While we were there, we found that one of the big needs they have is firewood,” Callaway said.
The reservation is largely desert and plains with only a few scattered pine trees, so, Callaway said, the Navajo families were excited to get the Georgia oaks that had been split into stove-size chunks and packaged in 1,000-pound bags.
The firewood came from Greg and Cindy Thompson’s property in Newnan. Their home had been destroyed in the tornado, and the crew from Faith Baptist had helped them with the cleanup.
“What was a tragedy for Greg and his family turned out to be a blessing for our brothers and sisters in the Navajo nation,” Callaway said.
The firewood delivery is only one of many ways members of Faith Baptist Church, with Sunday morning attendance of about 100, have ministered to others in the U.S. and abroad.
‘Givingest bunch of people’
They have provided the funding needed to build two churches in the Philippines. Just last week, they delivered nearly 900 backpacks filled with food and supplies to an elementary school in an impoverished community in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. They did that project in cooperation with other Georgia churches.
“They’re the givingest bunch of people I’ve ever seen,” Callaway said. “We don’t have a big budget at all, but God provides everything that’s needed.”
Thompson said he and his wife lost not only their home but also their vehicles in the tornado that struck March 25. Since then, they have been living in a house on a horse farm where he works while he waits for his to be rebuilt. But he’s not complaining, because, he said, God used the tornado to renew his faith.
“The minute that the tornado passed and I knew we were safe, I just knew that God was doing something, because I had been at that point in my life where I wasn’t as close to Him as I should be,” Thompson said. “He was bringing me to a state of repentance.”
‘God has been faithful’
Thompson said he has seen God at work in all the people who reached out to his family to help, including the people from Faith Baptist Church.
“I don’t mean to say it has been easy,” he said. “As a matter of fact, it has been hard, but every step of the way, God has been faithful.”
The firewood delivery was an impactful initiative for Thompson in that he was able to see something good from the devastation his family had suffered.
“It just made me thankful, because I had been praying for the Lord to give me an avenue to be a blessing,” he said. “I felt like everyone had been helping us, and I wanted God to allow us to do something for others.”