Pastor Huey Hudson of Restoration (Huntsville Foursquare Church) in Madison, Ala., is pleased with his congregation’s response after 35 tornadoes ravaged the state and severely damaged or destroyed at least 300 homes within a 10-mile radius of the church. However, he attributes the leading credit to God for preparing the church in the months leading up to the Apr. 27 storms.
It began with the disaster-relief training session the church hosted last December. The session qualified Foursquare chaplains and other workers to meet standards set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In less than two weeks, Restoration managed four phases of recovery. It started with supplying hot meals, survival essentials and community support, and is finishing with a focus on victims’ mental, emotional and spiritual needs.
“I noticed how God prepared us for this,” says Pastor Huey, a former associate pastor who assumed leadership of Restoration in 2005. “It’s amazing how comprehensive God is—from the FEMA training to the teaching God had me do.”
That included a sermon series in January that covered such topics as whole body ministry, teaching people about their gifts, and the five-fold ministry outlined in Ephesians 4:11-13. Pastor Huey followed up in March with two sermons, “God Is More Than a Good Crisis Manager” and “How to Live After a Crisis.” In addition, a guest speaker talked about how God was calling Restoration to be a forerunner.
On Palm Sunday, Melinda Scott—wife of Jim Scott, vice president of global operations and director of Foursquare Missions International (FMI)—delivered a sermon titled, “You’ve Been at This Mountain Long Enough; It’s Time to Get Up and Go.” Ten days later, disaster struck.
“I had already challenged people to step into ministry and not expect the pastor and leaders to do it all,” Pastor Huey tells Foursquare.org. “I believe Melinda’s message was God’s final call to action, a call that many responded to in their hearts that day. That prepared them for immediate response once the tornadoes hit.
“People were tremendously impressed by the teamwork and organization, and the way we were prepared,” he continues. “I credit that to God. People knew what to do and jumped into action.”
Prepared to Serve
Besides the disaster training and messages on preparing for ministry, God was moving people into place. Elder John Johnson, a retired Army colonel and later a vice president of an engineering firm, retired in March from the engineering company. He had talked about going on a missions trip. Huey says John became the perfect candidate to serve as operations manager for Project Restoration, the name given to the multifaceted disaster-relief effort.
“John felt like he wanted to do missions work,” Huey notes. “He just didn’t know it was going to be at home.”
Another member, who first visited in May 2010 after urging from his teenage daughter, told the pastor he hadn’t been to church in 40 years. However, Dave Thomas liked Restoration so much he soon rededicated his life to Christ and was baptized. Earlier this year, he felt led to organize daily lunch-hour prayer sessions for the week before Easter. The meetings attracted up to 30 people daily, including members of the community.
“I know God used that time,” affirms Huey. “That was very strategic, because it got our hearts into seeking Him. We had that community mindset that helped us when the storm hit.
“It helped our people understand the church is not just here on Sunday morning,” Huey continues. “A lot of churches get into competition and don’t understand the unity God has called us to. We have our part, but the church around the corner is just as important to His kingdom.”
Reaching the Community
The disaster response included 100 church members and another 75 volunteers from outside the church. In addition, the church hosted three teams of volunteers from AmeriCorps and 28 chaplains from Foursquare Chaplains International.
The community was impressed with this activity. When Restoration advertised for help unloading the first two trucks of supplies sent by Convoy of Hope, enough people showed up to finish the job in an hour. But it wasn’t just in feeding hungry people and distributing goods that the pastor saw God’s hand at work.
Among the people to whom members ministered was a woman who lived nearby, across the street from a subdivision of upscale homes. After the storm left her house unfit to live in, she guarded her property and her neighbors’ with a shotgun, reporting two looters who were later arrested.
Annie Loggins also gathered up belongings from neighbors’ homes and piled them in her damaged dwelling for safekeeping, even though before the tornadoes they rarely talked to her. A church member befriended the woman and took her food and supplies, with Restoration later building a porch shelter next to the camper she is living in.
Even though Annie doesn’t profess to follow Christ, Pastor Huey—who calls her a hero—says she showed more Christian character than many people who are in church on Sunday.
“Annie is absolutely unchurched. Her uncle said, ‘The day she comes to your church, the roof will fall in,’ ” Huey recalls. “I said: ‘We’ll just build it back. She’s the kind of person we want to reach.’ I believe she’s going to walk in the church one day. We enjoy the time we’ve had with her.”
Project Restoration has also shown church members the need for unity, teamwork and crossing denominational boundaries.
“It made an impact on our understanding of the importance of working together as a team,” Huey explains. “It has reinforced our need to be compassionate and grateful for everything God does.”
Those who would like to donate to people who have been impacted by the recent tornadoes can give to Foursquare’s U.S. disaster-relief fund.
Read more stories of how local Foursquare churches are assisting in disaster relief efforts in the south »
By: Ken Walker, an award-winning freelance journalist in Huntington, W.V.