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Tennessee community rallies around bivocational pastor, family after fire

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (BP) – As a deputy for the Loudon County Sheriff’s department and a bivocational pastor, Kenny Palmer is used to calls for people in distress.

But he was not prepared for the call he received from dispatch on April 5 that his house was on fire.

Though he was told his wife Christina and youngest son Colten were out of the house and not harmed, Palmer said it is difficult to feel relief until you see them for yourself. That’s when faith kicked in for Palmer, who also is the bivocational pastor of South Holston Baptist Church in Lenoir City.

“I prayed that everything would be all right,” he said.

When he and his oldest son Kevin arrived, they saw that the rest of the family was safe. The house was a different story.

It had been fully enveloped by the fire, and though people tried, they were unable to get things out before it was destroyed.

“Everything we owned was gone in a moment,” Palmer said, adding that he could not help but think, “What do we do now?”

One item he lost was the Bible he had been given when he was ordained as a deacon – the one he has used since he was called to preach.

“Losing that was hard,” he said. “It was like I had lost a piece of myself.”

Then, his faith took over once more. “I knew God would take care of this,” he said, adding that God has not let him or his family down.

“At one of the worst moments in my life, I could still look up and know that God has everything under control and that He would bring us through this,” he said.

“It is a testament to God to see how people have supported us with money, clothing and prayers. God really showed up.”

Palmer leaned on Romans 8:28 during the crisis: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

“God has shown me that Scripture a lot lately,” Palmer said.

The Palmers received support from fellow believers, many of whom they didn’t even know.

“Our community of churches has rallied around Bro. Kenny and Christina Palmer and their two boys,” said Phil Holmes, director of missions for Loudon County Baptist Association. “Several of our churches are taking up special offerings for them. Our association leadership also offered them a sizable donation to help them back on their feet.”

Holmes was grateful to all who stepped up to help the Palmers.

“We have seen a very strong outpouring of the love of Christ to bless this amazing family,” he said. “Thank you to all who donated clothing, gift cards to restaurants and other items while they are staying in a hotel, and thank you for your prayers for the Palmer family.”

While the fire was still burning, pastors from the area were arriving to reach out and show love and support, he said. Since the fire, churches and people in the community have overwhelmed the family with money and gifts. Palmer said one pastor in West Tennessee made arrangements for him to get a new suit so he would have one for Sunday.

“It has been very humbling,” Palmer said of the show of support. “The Lord will use whoever and whatever to bless His people. He has done that and it has been amazing.”

Palmer said he has been humbled and comforted by the show of support from the community.

“It shows they still have an appreciation for law enforcement,” he said.

In addition to the support the Palmer family has received since the fire, Palmer has had multiple opportunities to be a positive witness during interviews with Knoxville TV stations.

“God gave me the opportunity to be a light and witness for Him to a lot of people that day,” he said.

Palmer said he will never forget the love and support shown to his family.

“I can only hope that when tragedy strikes someone else, I will be the first in line to show God’s love to them,” he said.

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  • Lonnie Wilkey/Baptist and Reflector