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Baptists respond to N.M. tornadoes

LOGAN, N.M. (BP)–Many residents in two eastern New Mexico communities could be found in their churches on Sunday, March 25, praising God for His goodness less than 48 hours after 13 tornadoes were counted skipping through the region, destroying or damaging anything in their paths.

The facilities of First Baptist Church in Logan and, 80 miles to the south, Forrest Heights Baptist Church in Clovis were situated in the paths of two of the tornadoes.

The Associated Press reported that the tornado that roared through Logan about 3:30 on Friday afternoon destroyed approximately two-dozen mobile homes and campers and damaged another 50 homes. In Clovis, a twister destroyed 50 homes and damaged another 450 structures along the three-mile-long path it ripped through the area, according to news reports Sunday.

While scores of injuries were reported, 35 victims were treated in Clovis hospitals, AP reported, and two people were hospitalized following the Logan twister.

Logan First Baptist pastor Stephen Kulback and his wife Colleen wisely sat out the storm in their bathtub after putting their daughter Hope and a friend in their storm cellar, Colleen Kulback’s mother, Jan Capehart, told the Baptist New Mexican the next day.

The tornado caused severe damage to the front and roof of the church, which is located just across the street from the Kulbacks’ home.

The community quickly sprang into action to take care of the most immediate needs. And by the time most people across the state were sitting down for supper, New Mexico Baptist disaster relief units had been activated and were readying themselves to leave for the stricken area.

First on the scene was Eastern Baptist Association’s power unit, which was driven to Logan by Dan Pearce, director of missions for Eastern and Tucumcari Baptist associations. Pearce, who had pastored the Logan congregation from 1994-99, had heard that all the power in the community had been lost and later told the Baptist New Mexican that he wanted to make sure the church had electricity for its Sunday services.

Utility workers were able to quickly restore power to the community that evening, so Pearce was able to take the unit back to Clovis, where it would be needed there.

Pecos Valley Baptist Association’s feeding unit from Artesia arrived that afternoon and was able to feed supper to 95 victims of the Logan storm.

The unit — which was led by New Mexico Baptist disaster relief “white hat” coordinator Leo Pennington and his “blue hat” supervisor wife, Cathy, of Artesia — operated out of the kitchen at the school, and with help of First Baptist Logan members they fed lunch after church the next day to about 50 residents and delivered another 13 meals to the Red Cross shelter. They expected to return home after serving lunch the following day.

New Mexico Woman’s Missionary Union’s childcare unit arrived around midday on Saturday but returned home to Albuquerque that afternoon after Red Cross officials told the volunteers there were no children who needed to be cared for at the shelter.

Earlier, as that first morning had dawned in Logan after the tornado, 38 New Mexico Baptists from Portales, Clovis, San Jon and Tucumcari, accompanied by Eastern Association’s recovery unit, joined another 20-30 First Baptist Logan members in blitzing the community that day to pick up debris.

First Baptist was full of thankful people the next morning.

While Sunday School teachers went ahead and taught lessons they had prepared before that horrifying Friday afternoon, the discussion often centered on the events of the previous two days.

“God spared this town, people,” teacher Kenneth Terry told his Adult II class. Class member Dell Willis fittingly concluded the class time by remarking that God’s gracious hand had been on their community.

Paul White opened the morning worship service in prayer, lifting up the many who had suffered great losses and voicing thanksgiving that the devastation hadn’t been any worse.

“God is good, God is gracious,” declared Kulback during the welcome time. While the service included the weekly Pastor’s Pals (children’s time) and a reminder about the special Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Kulback’s message seemed especially relevant to what the congregation had just experienced.

“God has a message this morning — a message of hope, a message of healing … (and) wholeness,” the pastor said in his message.

Half a dozen members came to the altar during the invitation to spend time on their knees.

Pearce expected that recovery work in Clovis would begin on Tuesday, after the downed power lines were taken care of.

It wasn’t near as easy to get to Forrest Heights Baptist Church in Clovis that morning, as much of the area was still blocked off because of the danger of downed power lines and the massive amount of debris left by the tornado.

Pastor Garlan Hughes told the Baptist New Mexican that afternoon that the 15 who were able to get to church enjoyed “a good praise service” complete with electricity, thanks to the association’s power generator delivered that morning by Pearce.

While the auditorium was “usable,” Pearce said that the rest of the facility suffered severe damage.

Hughes and his brother George had additional reason for thanksgiving that afternoon when two fellow Baptists who were driving by stopped to help put plastic on parts of the church and the parsonage that were salvageable.

Both of the damaged churches had insurance on their facilities, which the pastors hope will cover nearly all of the cost of repairs, which are still undetermined.

Colleen Kulback told the Baptist New Mexican that those with the greatest need of financial assistance are the many in Logan who lost their homes, since many of the homes were uninsured.

    About the Author

  • John Loudat