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Fla. pastor ‘blessed’ despite destruction all around him

MARIANNA, Fla. (BP)–Some people tell Harold Moore he was lucky to survive a tornado that ripped through Marianna, Fla., as Hurricane Ivan slammed the Panhandle, but the bivocational pastor of Grace Bible Church rejects flatly the supposed compliment.

Met by a Red Cross disaster relief survey team as he returned home from church Sept. 19, one woman commented about Moore’s good fortune. He quickly responded, “We weren’t lucky; we are blessed.”

Moore told the Florida Baptist Witness it that God, not luck, saw him and his wife through the storm, which severely damaged the roof of his home, blew away one shed, damaged a large work building and mangled several other small buildings, including a mobile home used for storage from his recently closed furniture restoration business.

Across the street, Moore’s neighbors at the Brogdon Mobile Home Park were devastated and dozens were left homeless by the tornado, which claimed five lives in Blountstown in Calhoun County in addition to wreaking havoc in Marianna in Jackson County.

Asked to describe scene around his house, Moore simply said, “Disaster. It’s a war zone.

“We look around at all the destruction and realize we’re blessed. Our home is livable. We have some loses … but the main thing is we’re okay. Another great thing is that nobody in our neighborhood was injured,” Moore added.

Still, during the tornado as they huddled on the floor in a hallway praying for God’s protection, the Moores thought that they might die.

“We just fell on the floor and went to praying,” Moore said. “There was a big roar and things hitting the house. I actually thought the house was falling in. It was a very scary time but we prayed through the whole time.”

Moore’s wife, Ruthie, said a Christian friend, who works at an auto body repairing their two vehicles from extensive damage from trees toppled by the tornado, told her that when a Panama City television meteorologist warned that the twister was heading for the Moores’ neighborhood, the mechanic and his family prayed for them. Several other friends told the Moores they had done the same.

Choking back tears, Harold said thinking about the love of their Christian friends and God’s provision is overwhelming.

“We’ve both been very tearful about it,” Harold said. “I tell you, God just takes care of us.”

God’s care is also demonstrated in the assistance the Moores have received since the tornado hit.

“It’s just wonderful to know that God’s people are reaching out to help other Christians in need — not just Christians — but other people in need.”

The Moores lavished praise on Chipola Baptist Association director of missions Coba Beasley for his care for them.

“It’s a tragedy, but we’re just thankful how God’s brought His people together. … Coba Beasley and the association have just been super,” Harold said. Ruthie, a former missionary to Papua New Guinea, added, “The Baptist association has been just wonderful. We just couldn’t praise them and thank them enough.”

Harold regretted that when Beasley brought Florida Baptist Convention Executive Director-Tresurer John Sullivan by their home, they were away. In a Sept. 19 worship service at Grace Bible Church, Harold told the congregation of Sullivan’s visit, noting that he gave, in behalf of the convention, “some financial help — a sizeable amount of money.”

Beasley also helped the Moores get a room at Blue Springs Baptist Conference Center — just two miles from their home — until power can be restored to their home.

The Moores also expressed gratitude for the assistance Beasley has given with the church they started last March. “He’s been such a blessing to us as a new church getting started,” Ruthie said.

The new work is averaging “in the teens” for worship, Harold told the Witness. “It’s been an exciting time, but there have been some ups and downs. … God’s still working. I can see spiritual growth among our regular people.” Ruthie said that they believe one marriage has been saved as a result of the church’s ministry.

Recovering from a twister will be mild compared to the physical problems endured by Harold the last four years. He nearly died twice after a kidney transplant four years ago — first from a virus in the donor kidney and then because his body almost rejected the new organ.

The Moores see the tornado as one more attempt by the devil to stymie their ministry. After serving as a layman for many years, Harold was ordained to the Gospel ministry six years ago.

“We’ve had a lot of things happen in the last few years since I got in the ministry and got serious about serving the Lord. I can look back now and I can see that God’s hand was on our lives, but the devil was trying to derail me.”

Whether a heavenly “promotion” because they had died or through the assistance of fellow saints having lived through the tornado, Harold said either way, “God shows He still take care of us.”

    About the Author

  • James A. Smith Sr.