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FBC Horseshoe Beach serves as ‘lighthouse’ amid hurricane devastation

First Baptist Horseshoe Beach's sanctuary and parsonage sustained major damage from Hurriane Idalia.

HORSESHOE BEACH, Fla. (BP) – Known as a laid-back, friendly fishing village, the quaint community of Horseshoe Beach found itself directly in the path of Hurricane Idalia’s 125mph winds and 10-foot storm surge. The catastrophic devastation has left the fishing and boating community in pieces.

Picking up some of those pieces is Robin Hoffman. Hoffman’s family has owned a home in Horseshoe Beach since the early 1970s, and she is a longtime member of First Baptist – the only local church within 20 miles.

Having trained as a Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer and served in the aftermath of dozens of natural disasters for more than 20 years, Hoffman compared Hurricane Idalia’s devastation of the Horseshoe Beach community to the 1993 “Storm of the Century” that also formed over the Gulf of Mexico and left catastrophic damage and storm surge in the same region.

On the Sunday morning immediately following Hurricane Idalia’s assault on the community, under clear blue skies, church members and community residents gathered on Horseshoe Beach to worship God.

“Coming back into town, the destruction was immediately apparent,” Hoffman said. “Fridges and couches had been swept to the middle of the street, and some of my neighbors’ homes have just vanished. In looking around, Idalia is twice what the 1993 Storm of the Century was in this area.”

The church didn’t escape the storm’s destructive path. Damage to the church facility and parsonage is extensive.

With many of the church’s few dozen members remaining evacuated until power is restored to the area, Hoffman and her husband are springing into action and calling for help as they seek to recover what is left of their church’s buildings.

Leaders from Lafayette Baptist Association and Patrick Coats, East region catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, were some of the first on the scene assessing damage and seeking to serve the small Baptist church and hard-hit community.

“It was heartbreaking to see and stand in the midst of devastation,” Coats said. “My wife and I got the opportunity to pray and encourage Robin Hoffman from First Baptist Horseshoe Beach. I’m grateful for our Florida Baptist family’s heart in coming beside churches. We know our God is the God of restoration.”

Also seeking to come alongside the devastated church is Joppa Baptist Church, located in neighboring Trenton. After assessing the damage the day after Idalia, the church has already begun the restoration process and seeks to be a helping hand and to “stick around” long after the work is completed.

“Southern Baptists have been so good to us,” Hoffman said. “They have made it bearable because we know help is on the way. We’re not alone.”

Hurricane Idalia’s landfall came just as the church was preparing to welcome its new pastor after being without a pastor for more than a year. Church members are determined not to allow Hurricane Idalia to put a damper on things as they attempt to salvage what is left of the parsonage.

Having come two weeks ago to move most of their personal belongings, the Tennessee pastor and his wife are set to begin their ministry at the church Tuesday (Sept 5).

Hoffman and her husband are hard at work drying out the pastor’s books, salvaging what they can of the family’s personal belongings, and trying to find a temporary place for the new pastor to live.

Aside from the parsonage, the church building took on more than five feet of storm surge. The small congregation lost its piano, pews and sound system, and many of the Bibles and hymnals floated away.

Nonetheless, Hoffman said the hurricane can’t destroy the members’ love for and commitment to their “tight-knit” community.

“Even though our church is small, 30 members on a good Sunday, the community depends on us,” Hoffman said. “We truly are the lighthouse for 20 miles.”

And the church is letting its light shine amid the heartbreak. On the Sunday morning immediately following Hurricane Idalia’s assault on the community, under clear blue skies, church members and community residents gathered on Horseshoe Beach to worship God.

For updates on FLDR response, go to facebook.com/FLBaptistDR and flbaptist.org/dr-current-response.

    About the Author

  • Jessica Pigg

    Jessica Pigg is the director of women’s ministry at Fellowship Baptist Church in Immokalee, Fla., where her husband Timothy is senior pastor.

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