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Consistency, deep roots matter regardless of ministry season

Members of First Baptist Church in Greensburg, Kan., gather last Thanksgiving to celebrate the burning of the note for their building. Their original structure was among those destroyed in 2007 by an EF5 tornado that devastated the town.

GREENSBURG, Kan. (BP) – At the mention of “the church,” most picture a building. The enduring example, though, is the people and their resolve to follow Christ, ministering where they are planted and outward.

Peter Blanton began attending First Baptist Church in 2005. The town of Greensburg, two hours west of Wichita, had a population of around 1,400 back then. He wasn’t from the area, but his wife, Chris, had grown up 40 minutes from there.

In the first week of May 2007, an EF5 tornado wider than the city itself leveled every downtown building save one. Eleven died, with 63 injured.

First Baptist’s building was among those erased from the prairie.

Peter Blanton, a deacon at First Baptist Church in Greensburg, Kan., adjusts the helmet of a member of the Kiowa County Mavericks junior high football team.

“I didn’t have a lot of experience with tornadoes,” Blanton said. “We were at my in-laws’ at the time. Chris is a nurse at the hospital and when she asked if they needed her to come in, they said yes.

“I dropped her off and went into town. It looked like a bomb had gone off; pretty much everything was destroyed.”

No members of First Baptist were among the dead or seriously injured. Affiliated with the American Baptist Convention at the time, the church joined those who received aid from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. This included a modular building that First Baptist could use until its new one was completed on April 5, 2008. 

In that time, First Baptist became more familiar with Southern Baptists, becoming dually aligned a few years ago before moving forward with sole affiliation a year after that.

First Baptist isn’t made up of the kind of people who like debt, so the congregation with a membership in the 80s paid off the new building bit by bit over the years. They burned the note last Thanksgiving, a year and a half ahead of schedule.

They’ve become more involved in Southern Baptist work, volunteering for Disaster Relief domestically as well as trips such as one to Haiti. The church has been without a pastor since last October and in that time has benefitted from being part of the Central Baptist Association, led by associational missionary Cecil Dale.

“Cecil is great,” said Blanton, a deacon and member of the pastor search committee. “He’ll jump up and come here any time we ask for something. He’s filled the pulpit several times for us.”

Dale, indeed, has been busy. Earlier this week in Great Bend, where the association office is located, First Southern Baptist Church lost its roof in a windstorm the night before Vacation Bible School was to start.

Two other First Baptist Greensburg deacons and another member who was an associate pastor in Pennsylvania have preached most Sundays these past nine months.

Because of the tornado, most of Greensburg’s buildings are no more than 15 years old even though the town’s first settlement dates back to 1885. Its current population is around 700.

Nearly 20 years of living there has ingrained Blanton in the community as the longstanding junior high PE teacher (the school is K-12) and through his connection to First Baptist.

Consistency and deep roots to withstand the storms make places such as his church so important, he said.

“You’ve got to be different than everybody else, and they’ve got to want to know why,” Blanton explained. “If you live your life in a way that God would have you to, there should be something special about that.”

His favorite passage is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.

“It sums up how we should live,” he said. “Even in the bad times, God still has you. Our time here on earth is just a blink.”