By MADOLINE MARKHAM
In the early morning of April 27, an EF-2 tornado moved down Dolly Ridge Road and hit Mountain Brook Community Church on its path to Cahaba Heights. Trees came down, a window shattered glass into the sanctuary, picnic tables were thrown 200 feet away, and roofs were damaged.
Had the storm been much stronger, an architect said the sanctuary roof might have been pulled off completely. A house behind the church on Briar Glen Drive has been condemned.
No one at the church was hurt, and miraculously, there was no water damage. “I think we were very fortunate,” Church Administrator Scot Cardwell said.
A friend of the Senior Pastor Tim Kallum drove by the church by that morning, saw the damage, and called Kallum to suggest DE General contractors to help with the damage. A crew was on site addressing damage by lunchtime, and work began to clear trees and replace roofs.
With the church campus cleanup addressed so early, church members were freed up to help their neighbors who had storm damage. Working from home, Panera Bread and other places that did have power and Internet, the staff connected people in the church to needs in the area.
That Saturday they sent about 110 people across Highway 280 to Cahaba Heights. They brought chain saws and rakes, dividing up the area by blocks, and walked around to see where they could help. They also prayed with and for the neighbors they met.
“It was the community of faith joining together to jump in and help friends and neighbors,” Mission Pastor Jimbo Tucker said.
The church organized similar excursions the following two Saturdays and helped with efforts organized by other area churches who were helping parishioners and their neighbors. Contractors in the church donated equipment to help. More than a month after the tornado, some from the church were going back to help people they had built relationships with earlier.
The church also sent people to help with efforts at the Christian Service Mission downtown, Samaritan’s Purse in Hueytown, and wherever else they heard of that was in need.
With the sanctuary under repair that Sunday, the church invited the community to a combined worship service outside in a parking lot. They set out chairs for 1,000, and all 1,000 were filled.
Many arrived to see the church’s damage for the first time and together prayed for their neighbors who suffered from more severe loss. “It was a healing time to where everyone could come together and worship at the same time,” Cardwell said.
Afterward a lot of people asked about why the church didn’t hold a service outside more often. They are planning to hold another one in the fall and on the anniversary of the tornadoes next year.
By the following Sunday power returned, and the church resumed holding service in the sanctuary. As they finish cleanup and repairs after the tornado, the church is planning workdays for church members to landscape in June while they continue to reach out to their neighbors affected by storms.