An EF3 tornado ripped through Gaylord, Michigan, tragically taking the lives of two people and injuring more than 40 on May 20. The winds reached up to 140 mph as they flipped cars, destroyed homes and damaged businesses.
The disaster also brought the town of more than 3,600 people together as neighbors immediately started helping one another.
As the town pulled together and started recovery efforts, the love of Christ was on display through area churches. Michigan Baptists surveyed the damage and witnessed the church and community response firsthand.
One of the newest churches in Gaylord stepped forward in a big way. Pastor Jeremy Bowling planted Passion Church about 18 months ago. After seeing the damage caused by the tornado, he immediately offered the church building for use in any way needed by the community.
Bowling noted they were able to partner with another local church to help the community.
“We are on the west side of town, and they are on the east side. We took the donations here, and they took the donations there. The tornado hit in the middle,” he said. “We’ve had lots of people in the community help by donating, including people in the church and the food bank. It’s been an awesome opportunity to reach out and show people the love of Christ.”
Kids Santa and Company, a Michigan nonprofit, messaged Bowling and offered toys for the church to distribute to children affected by the tornado.
“He brought not just toys, but brand-new toys,” Bowling said. “Lots and lots of them for the children who lost everything in the tornado. There’s a whole community of people that have been displaced. Their children are without their toys, no doubt confused and devastated. If I was a kid, I’d want my toys.” Passion Church is giving them those toys.
Michigan Disaster Relief Director Bob Kiger connected with other relief groups serving the community and offered Michigan Baptist help.
After seeing all Passion Church is doing, Kiger said, “The love of Jesus is shining through in the midst of the disaster in Gaylord. Passion Church has established a donation center in their church, and they are supplying affected homeowners with toys, food, clothing and other needed items. A small church has become a large witness because of their obedience to Jesus!”
Tim Patterson, executive director/treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, shared, “It does my heart good to see when churches and people come together to make a difference in their community. It is especially true when one of our church plants that is only a year old is making such a difference.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Mike Durbin and originally appeared in the Baptist Beacon, the newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan.