'The Churches There Were Really Destroyed': Christians Rallying Hurricane Aid Despite Own Losses
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. - President Trump visits Florida and Georgia today to see the damage from Hurricane Michael firsthand. The death toll from the powerful storm is now up to 17 and officials fear that number will rise.
Residents who fled Florida's Panhandle ahead of the vicious Category 4 hurricane are beginning to make their way back home to see if there is any home left.
"Everybody we knew lost their house – Everybody – and their jobs," said Mexico Beach resident Emily Hansen.
Another resident said, "The devastation – it's like a bomb just went off here."
In Panama City Beach, churches are ready to help, even though they weren’t spared destruction.
Destiny Worship Center lost the side of its kids building, but that’s not stopping them from serving their community. The church is helping collect and deliver basic necessities to those in need.
Wayne Asprodites, Panama City Beach campus pastor for Destiny Worship Center, told CBN News, "Really we're beginning to communicate to take supplies here on the beach level and bring them over to Panama City and Springfield and Callaway, where the churches there were really destroyed, major damage, and allow them to be collection points for the supplies that people are giving us and distribute to the people in need."
Just down the road, Lighthouse Church here in Panama City Beach took a more direct hit. The eye wall of the hurricane came right through this area, and you can see the devastation it caused.
But folks here at Lighthouse won’t let damage to their building keep them from being the hands and feet of Jesus.
Lighthouse Pastor Cole Bailey told CBN News, "I think we all know that's just a building, it's just a building. We can build a building but we want to make sure our community is taken care of, we want to make sure our members are taken care of."
"We have seven teams out with chainsaws and front end loaders, we're moving trees and making sure that everybody is accounted for, and that they can get out and that they get the aid that they need," he continued.
Pastor Cole says that by meeting the basic needs of his community, he's able to truly show them the love of Christ.
"I can tell you that I love you all day long, or I can show you that I love you. So our neighbors, if they've ever wondered if we love them, they're about to find out for sure when they see one of these 'Dream Team' t-shirts on," Pastor Cole said.
CBN News also found Mercy Chefs providing relief in Panama City. This ministry can serve up to 18,000 meals a day to victims, volunteers, and first responders.
"We'll be able to stand up three separate locations around Florida and Georgia as needed. But from those sites, we send food out to different distribution points. So one kitchen can always overcook the site we're on. So we take that to then go further into the community or further into where the damage was the worst," Gary LeBlanc of Mercy Chefs explained.
As devastated as this area is, God can be found here, not in the destruction, but in the response.
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