The spirits of Church Central’s congregation can’t be kept down and neither can the community pulling together to fix what Mother Nature nearly destroyed.
Monday evening’s strong winds and heavy rain caused power outages in Baldwin County and across the state and hundreds endured property damage. Members of Church Central were astonished to see portions of the church’s interior ceiling collapsed and nearly 3 inches of water flooding the front lobby and office areas Tuesday morning.
“Milledgeville Cares was having their meeting at the church Tuesday morning and they found the damage. My daughter and I were on a trip since she was out for college spring break. We were outside the Memphis, Tenn. area when I got a phone call telling me we had storm damage, and that’s all I knew at that point,” Pastor Jeff Simmons said. “I started calling people to tell them to go down to the church and check it out. When I saw pictures, I didn’t think it was that bad, but as the day progressed, it just got worse and worse.”
When Simmons finally reached the church, he remained calm, but was a little disheartened thinking about the daunting task ahead of him as he looked at the upsetting sight.
“My first thought was that this is a mess and I was trying to make a decision if we needed to have church somewhere else; I didn’t really have much time to react,” he said. “Even though I knew it was all going to be OK, I did have a small moment initially because there’s a lot of blood, sweat, tears, prayers and faith that went into having this place; it’s just one hurdle after another. It was tough, but that moment lasted about 10 seconds and then it was about figuring out what we were going to do next.”
To avoid mildew forming in a 72-hour time period, Merritt Professional Carpet Cleaning and Restoration began working diligently Tuesday night to extract water and ruined items out of the affected areas.
“The water had created a lot more damage than we first anticipated; it was all in the walls and carpet. My office has been completely ripped out. There was furniture damage and equipment underneath our sound booth was ruined. The membrane of the roof just peeled back and that’s where the water dumped in,” Simmons said while waiting with Pastor Corey Cox for an insurance claims adjuster Thursday afternoon. “Merritt came in and threw away all of the tiles, ripped up all of the baseboards, and once the insurance adjuster is here, we’ll find out if we need to replace any sheetrock. There’s no telling what the roof is going to cost; I just know it’s going to be at least $10,000. One Source Remodeling came and put some tar on the roof to temporarily repatch it in preparation of the rain this weekend, so hopefully it won’t leak. We don’t know if we’re going to do the work ourselves with the help of volunteers or contract it out.”
As Church Central restores what was built with members’ very own hands, worship service will temporarily move to Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) at 216 N. Clark St. Service will be held at normal times at 11 a.m. Palm Sunday with golf cart shuttle service available followed by a 3 p.m. Easter egg hunt at Freedom Baptist Church’s gymnasium featuring 2,500 eggs. Service on Easter Sunday, March 31, is slated at 9:30 and 11 a.m. at BCM.
“After I got to the church Tuesday and was trying to digest everything, my phone was just ringing off the hook with calls from different people in the community offering a space for us to worship. If we were to rush to make sure we could have church service here by Sunday, we were worried that we may have mold or mildew here; we need time to investigate the area better and make sure there’s no lasting effects from the damage,” Simmons said. “We’re thinking that it’s going to be at least two weeks of not having church here, but we’re not missing service for this interruption. I want people to know that if they were thinking about visiting our church then not to let this stop them from coming by; we’re going to have church wherever we are.”
Church Central began renting the space at its current location at 620 S. Wilkinson St. in 2003. The space formerly housed a motorcycle shop. Church members purchased the space two years later. Milledgeville’s only soup kitchen ministry, Cafe Central, started operations at the church in 2009 feeding 20 people to now providing more than 400 meals to those in need at Freedom Church every Tuesday. A live, interactive online church service will launch in 40 days on Church Central’s website.
“At Church Central, we’re about bringing people in, building them up and sending them out. We had 86 people show up at our first service in January 2003 and today we have about 150 people in our congregation,” Simmons said. “I want the church and community to not let this discourage them. On Sunday, I preached a sermon with the message that as believers we need to be willing to be interrupted, and yet here we are interrupted 24 hours later. It was like God was preparing our folks through the message for what the next few days was going to bring.”
For more information, to donate time or funds, email email@example.com, visit www.churchcentralonline.org, or like the Church Central Facebook page.
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