Nine months ago, Unity Baptist Church’s campus in Newnan, Georgia, was in shambles with three buildings heavily damaged and two others destroyed by a massive EF-4 tornado packing winds in excess of 175 mph.
Roofs were blown off. Gaping holes were left in walls. The bus garage disappeared. The gymnasium was beyond repair. Damage was about $6 million.
“As the old song says, ‘we’ve come a long way, baby,’” said Pastor Doug McCart, standing in a renovated worship center. “It’s absolutely amazing what God has done.”
Reaching out to help others
On Sunday (Jan. 2) , members of the congregation celebrated a “grand reopening,” observing the day by collecting an offering for Kentucky churches to help survivors of a deadly December outbreak of tornadoes that killed 77 people.
That offering totaled more than $24,791.
“It’s pretty amazing,” McCart said. “Our people have been given so much, and now they’re reaching out to help others.”
If any congregation understands what the Kentucky churches are facing, it’s Unity Baptist. While three buildings have been restored at a cost of $4.5 million, the congregation still has to replace the gymnasium.
Damage from the tornado remains obvious all over Newnan. Some homes still have tarps draped across their damaged roofs. Others have plywood nailed over blown out windows. A two-story apartment building just down the street is missing its roof and upper walls, leaving soggy furnishings exposed.
McCart and his wife Greta had taken refuge in the church’s gymnasium when the tornado roared through Newnan. As they sat together in a stairwell, they felt the walls begin to sway back and forth. They heard the tin peeling off the roof. The stairs began to shake like a rollercoaster.
“That’s when I said ‘this building can’t stand this kind of pressure; I’m about to meet Jesus face to face,’” McCart said.
The McCarts’ survival was national news. The Weather Channel interviewed the pastor and showed footage of the badly damaged church. Other TV stations across the country used the interview and footage on their newscasts.
The tornado that hit Unity Baptist was one of several that had hopscotched across Georgia and Alabama on March 26, leaving widespread destruction in their wake. Some 200 homes were destroyed and another 4,000 damaged.
‘It has pulled us together’
McCart said the Lord has blessed Unity Baptist in ways that are of far greater importance than the restored buildings. He said the congregation has experienced revival, adding 50 new members over the past year and celebrating 23 baptisms despite the tornado.
“It has pulled us together,” McCart said.