At the edge of southern Cullman County near the Bug Tussle community, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church was one of the many community landmarks to fall victim to storm damage.
Originally built in 1926, the church had served as an important place of worship for the area's residents, providing not only for their spiritual needs but as a place the community could gather together for important events.
As the storms that ravaged the area enacted their deadly toll in late April, the church suffered devastating damage to their sanctuary building as a large tree crashed into its side, collapsing much of the structure and leaving church members and the community without the long-standing spiritual landmark. Thoughts of rebuilding were complicated by the fact that there was little funding for insurance due to the building's age, leaving many to wonder if the church's reestablishment would be possible.
Help would be on the way and come from all over the south. A group from Fairburn, Ga., originally on a mission trip to Tennessee, arrived in Cullman County to assist with repairs on churches that had been affected and arrived at Antioch on June 19, laying the foundation to a new sanctuary and providing the block work along with Bell Construction of Cullman and Pisgah Baptist Church of Walker County. Additional work was provided by the Builders for Christ group, who worked on the floors and the building's decking, while the walls were put up by several other groups that had arrived to help.
"We've had groups from Northside Baptist Church and First Baptist Church in Jasper who have come to help build, along with other groups from Kentucky and Glory Fellowship in Jasper," said Laurita Hogland, treasurer and life-long member of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. "They've worked day and night and we've had many people who have come in to cook and feed the workers while they've been working. It's been completely amazing to see and we're so grateful for what they have all done for us."
"This has been a blessing to us for the way that these groups have come in and shown us tremendous Christian charity in a time when it's needed the most," Pastor Tommy Graves said. "After such a tragic blow, to see what they're doing for us is such a joy"
Last week, members of Carbon Hill First Baptist Church, who canceled a mission trip to New York, descended on the area to assist with the spiritual rebuilding of the church and to minister to the community.
"We wanted to do something more local after the tornadoes and we just simply felt led to come up here and do something they weren't able to do. We sought a five-mile area around the church to talk to people and hand out flyers in an effort to spiritually reach out to people and tell them about the Lord," Carbon Hill First Baptist Pastor Scott McCullar said.
"We met people from all walks of life and ministered to them. There was a lot of people who didn't know about this church here or the Lord at Antioch, but they do now. To us, we had seen that there was a lot of focus on the building itself, but we wanted to make sure there would be a lot of people to fill it up. You wouldn't think it to be so here in rural Alabama, but this is a very un-churched area and many of these people needed the spiritual outreach we have brought to them."
Along with the effort to reach out to the community around Antioch Church, Carbon Hill First Baptist's group has also help clear damage and debris from other area churches who are seeking to rebuild. It has been an overall effort that has touched McCullar.
"All of our volunteers that are here with us took their vacations and personal time to come and help this week," McCullar said. "It's very humbling and it honors me that they would do that for the Lord."