Uprooted dead trees line the ground. Uninhabitable apartment buildings are empty. Street signs are missing. Businesses are closed. Families have vacated their homes.
It might sound like a war zone, but this is Panama City, Fla., and the surrounding community that was devastated by Hurricane Michael in October 2018. Much of the area is still being rebuilt many months after the Category 5 storm swept through the area.
“Many of our church members are still living in RVs in their driveways,” said Ginger Owens, minister of childhood education at First Baptist Church of Panama City. “But so many in our community have been devastated. Thirty percent of the families left, and a few have come back. Target has just recently opened back up. And there aren’t enough employees to keep McDonald’s open for full hours.”
With the vast citywide damage, members of First Baptist faced a deeply wounded community looking for hope and help amid their pain. Although the main sanctuary of First Baptist remained intact, other churches were not as fortunate.
It quickly became obvious to First Baptist’s church staff that Vacation Bible School (VBS) would be an impactful ministry to the community, as well as to those churches whose facilities were destroyed.
“There are many families and children who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of what has taken place in our community,” Owens said. “Children are having night terrors, and people are going back to live in moldy homes because they don’t want to stay in RVs any longer. We need hope.”
When the storm hit, children’s ministry volunteer Casey Clark and her family were in a separate building adjacent to the worship center. Clark said they had to move from room to room multiple times seeking a safe space as the roof pulled off.
As they moved between rooms, in fear of the raging storm, Clark’s children began quoting Scripture verses they had learned in VBS.
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Source: Baptist Press