“Our city is 1.4 miles wide,” Mississippi pastor Britt Williamson remarked. “The tornado was a mile wide. We had an 8-minute warning if you were watching the Jackson television station. If you weren’t, you had no warning. It just hit you. A mile wide tornado went directly through the middle of Rolling Fork … An F4 tornado, 190 mile an hour winds.”
Williamson, pastor of First Baptist Church Rolling Fork, recently joined Tanner Cade, director of communication services, and Jon Martin, director of men’s ministries, on the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board’s “Around the Table” podcast. They discussed the long road of rebuilding and recovery after the F4 tornado which devastated Rolling Fork on the night of March 24. Williamson also shared Dec. 6 on Good Morning America about relief efforts and a non-profit helping renters become homeowners.
RELATED: Also, look for more stories here on Rolling Fork and Disaster Relief efforts.
Although the tornado hit on that Friday night, the leadership of First Church Rolling Fork decided not to shut down Sunday’s worship service. “We had people that had to walk to church. They had no homes, they had no cars, yet that was probably one of the most attended services that I’ve ever had here at the church,” Williamson said.
“We’re not that large of a church, but we had 18 families who lost everything… That takes a devastating toll mentally, emotionally, physically on your congregation, and people are still dealing with the trauma of that. We now have 15 deaths from the tornado in Rolling Fork … We have about 2,000 people here, and there should have been 600 or 800 people dead. We hurt for those families that lost loved ones, but not having 800 people pass that night was just the grace of God.
“We’ve increased our membership by 26 people this year,” he noted, “and for the size of our church, we’ve seen about 15 people come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are very thankful for that and praise the Lord for that. We’ve had a lot of baptisms, and so it’s in the midst of the difficulty that there’s been a lot of blessing.”
On that destructive night, help arrived almost immediately. “The tornado hit at 8:08 PM … and before the sun came up, we had MS Baptist Disaster Relief people on the ground,” said Williamson. “To see the response from them and how quickly it was, was just incredible,” Williamson said.
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To listen to the full “Around the Table” episode with Pastor Britt Williamson, visit Podcasts – Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (mbcb.org).
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written and originally published by the Baptist Record.