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3 churches not spared in tornadoes’ onslaught

AMERICUS, Ga. (BP)—In addition to nine deaths, three churches were among the March 1 toll from tornadoes in Georgia.

Calvary Baptist and Wynnbrook Baptist in Columbus and Central Baptist in Americus each reported varying degrees of damage, some severe.

Initial reports are that Calvary Baptist sustained the greatest damage. “Two walls of the two-year-old gym were completely sucked out and a back wall of the sanctuary was blown away,” Jimmy Blanton, director of missions for Columbus Baptist Association, told The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

“The sanctuary also received considerable roof damage and the building cannot be used at all. In addition, the sports complex was completely destroyed and a glass portion of the sanctuary was also blown out,” Blanton added. There is extensive water damage to the site.

Wynnbrook Baptist Church, also in Columbus, reported significant damage but reports were sketchy as to the extent of the damage.

Central Baptist Church in Americus reported damage from a tornado that touched down around 10 p.m. Thursday night. Hugh DeLoach, the church’s associate pastor, told The Index that a utility building with two garage bays was totally destroyed, the shroud covering the steeple had been ripped away allowing water to pour into the building and a back wall of the sanctuary had separated from the building.

The congregation had relocated to its new site just 14 months ago from its original century-old location in downtown Americus.

“Our Winn-Dixie is completely destroyed as well as many of the businesses in the heart of town. They were severely hit,” DeLoach told The Index.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at least two residents died at Sumter Regional Medical Center in Americus but it was not known if the victims were visitors, patients or staff.

DeLoach said he did not know if the Friendship Baptist Association office, located near the hospital, had been damaged, “but I don’t know how the storm could have missed that building. It was right in its path.” The area is cordoned off by law enforcement officials and cannot be accessed, he said.

DeLoach and former Central Baptist pastor Harris Malcom toured the site Friday morning to help evaluate the damage. Malcom had served as pastor of the church for six years before resigning on Jan. 7 to accept a Georgia Baptist Convention ministry resource consultant position.

Malcom is no stranger to violent spring storms. He and his family barely survived a tornado that destroyed their subdivision in Camilla on Valentine’s Day 2000. He was serving as pastor of First Baptist Church at the time and later resigned to accept the Americus pastorate.

Malcom, his wife Phyllis and daughter Katie huddled in the hallway as the tornado touched down around midnight. It was the only part of the house that was structurally intact after the storm passed. They escaped with only their lives and the clothes on their backs.

Speaking by cellphone from Americus Friday morning, Malcom compared the destruction of six years ago with what happened Thursday night.

“This is just all too familiar,” he said. “It’s just all too familiar.”
Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention, on the Web at www.christianindex.org.

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  • Joe Westbury