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Wyoming Baptists help neighbors while weathering historic snowfall

Photo provided by Chris Furl

WHEATLAND, Wyo. (BP) – Snow is nothing new to residents of Wyoming, Pastor Chris Furl of Memorial Baptist Church said Tuesday (March 16). But the recent storm that he says brought three feet of the white stuff to his town is something unseen in 40 years.

The plowed streets of Wheatland, Wyo., reflect the historic snowfall most of southern Wyoming experienced over the last several days. With more than 30 inches measured along with blowing winds, most churches in the area made the rare move of cancelling Sunday services March 14. Photo provided by Chris Furl

“We can barely get out in it right now,” he said. “I went to town and that was precarious. The only way we were able to get to our driveway was with a front-end loader.”

It’s rare for a snowstorm to lead Wyoming churches to cancel services. But that’s what happened March 14 for the majority of those in his coverage area, said David Schroeder, South Region missionary for the Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network.

“Right now, to a large degree people are staying hunkered down,” Schroeder said yesterday (March 16). One of our pastors in Cheyenne told me he hasn’t been able to get to the church, but has almost gotten stuck a few times going to the hospital where he’s a chaplain.”

Today, a church member at Memorial with a front-end loader cleared its parking lot, leaving nine-foot-high snow piles along the perimeter. At least 14 families have contacted Furl about help with snow removal, two of which don’t attend Memorial.

Church members gathered in the parking lot around noon to break into teams for shoveling sidewalks and driveways, Furl said. They’ll continue to do so in the coming days as needed.

“Numerous people from Memorial have been helping their neighbors plow out,” he said. “It was their own initiative and not an organized church effort. Those stories just keep coming to me.”

Snow started falling along the Laramie Range Saturday (March 13) afternoon. Twenty-four hours later, Furl said he had 24 inches outside his door. The National Weather Service reported that Cheyenne, 70 miles south of Wheatland, recorded 30.8 inches by Monday. That was the most since Thanksgiving 1979, when some roads were shut down for a week and cattle feed had to be airlifted to various locations, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported.

Furl, a Georgia native who joined Memorial last year after serving as a pastor in Murphy, N.C., credited local forecasters with helping in preparation.

“They did their job well, so everyone was stocked up,” he said. “The people here are really resilient. We lost power for a little bit, but the only complaint I’ve really heard was from an elderly couple in their 90s when their satellite dish lost its feed.”

The youth of Memorial Baptist Church have been hard at work shoveling snow since a massive snowfall hit Wyoming a few days ago. Stories of church members helping others “just keep coming to me,” said Pastor Chris Furl. Photo submitted by Chris Furl

Schroeder, who lives in Laramie, assisted others in shoveling a path from the front door of some elderly neighbors. Most of the shoveling, though, will have to wait until some straggling snow showers clear out today. Temperatures are expected to reach 50 by the weekend.

He is scheduled to preach this Sunday in Bairoil, a town of around 170 in a remote area in south-central Wyoming. Having filled the pulpit before, he typically travels the 140 miles on Saturday night to meet with some men from Bairoil Community Baptist Church for food and fellowship.

Extra steps will be needed this time. He has been instructed to drive as far as the road allows him. From there, he’ll be fetched and taken the remaining 15 miles in a side-by-side ATV with tracks installed, as tires will be useless.

Odds are good he’ll get there with little fanfare, because while it may be precarious, the people are resilient.