In Storm's Aftermath Calvary Church Responds to Age Old Biblical Edict: Take Care of the Poor

[Photo 1: (Pictured left to right) John Wedgeworth, Billy Hathmaker, Jeannette Barnes, Benjamin Yeung, Kendra Watson  and Pastor Tim Plant pose for a picture in front of Calgary Baptist Church. Wedgeworth and Barnes are Rosedale Court residents who received housing assistance from the Church.]
(Pictured left to right) John Wedgeworth, Billy Hathmaker, Jeannette Barnes, Benjamin Yeung, Kendra Watson and Pastor Tim Plant pose for a picture in front of Calgary Baptist Church. Wedgeworth and Barnes are Rosedale Court residents who received housing assistance from the Church.

Even before the storms of April 27th left their crippling impact on the Tuscaloosa community, Pastor Tim Plant and his congregation at Calvary Church in Tuscaloosa, AL had talked of adopting the Rosedale community, an impoverished Public Housing community, as a part of Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox's vision of using the faith community to help break the cycle of poverty within the City. Mayor Maddox had launched an initiative called HOPE in which he asked members of the City's faith community to adopt crime plagued communities within the City and use the resources of their churches to make a difference in the lives of some of the City's least fortunate. Pastor Plant and his church had been looking for ways to get involved in the Rosedale community, and they had done things like food drives, and provided back to school support kits for kids from the area, but somehow they were not able to figure out exactly how to make the kind of difference they felt their faith required. The destruction caused by the storm shook the church and its members into action. The evening of the storm Reverend Plant drove an All Terrain Vehicle from his church to the Rosedale community and saw the death and destruction first hand. In that moment he knew that he and his church would have to find ways to serve the Lord by serving this community in need. His inspiration comes from his interpretation of the works of the Apostle Paul in the Bible, who is said to have told someone who wanted to know what to do in response to an act of kindness from him, to simply take care of the poor. To Pastor Plant and to the members of his church this simple edict became their marching orders in the hours and days after the storm.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Calvary Church members provided food and water to storm victims, but as other organizations stepped in to provide these services Pastor Plant and his congregation prayed for guidance for what God wanted them to do next. Pastor Plant says that helping families get restarted was the constant answer he received from his prayers. And so the church set out to help needy families. They had no plan, no funding, no experience, but according to Pastor Plant they had their faith, and it turns out that was all they needed.

Through conversations with the Housing Authority, Pastor Plant determined that getting the families re-housed was the number one priority. And remarkably as the Housing Authority scrambled to find places to live for the residents of its programs that had been displaced, Pastor Plant and his team decided that providing furnishings to help the families get started again would be their mission.

Here is the living room of the new home of a former Rosedale Court resident that was furnished by Calvary Baptist Church. This is the home of John Wedgeworth, a long time Rosedale resident, who helped dig out survivors in the moments after the storm.

Kendra Watson remembers that it began with a simple announcement on the Church's website asking for donations of time or money, and that the Church was overwhelmed by the generosity of the donations with over $400,000 coming in the weeks following the storm. Of that $400,000 total, over $300,000 was raised in the form of individual donations. Billy Hathmaker has been the Activity Coordinator for the Church for this project. He said that they established from the beginning that they were not going to put used or in any way tarnished goods into the homes of the families they assisted. He said that they told families if you would not put it in your own homes, we do not want to put it in these folks' homes either.

With the funding raised and the items donated to assist in the cause, the church has been able to assist 56 families as of June 20, 2011. Provisions have been made for three additional families that are in the final stages of being relocated, and six families are still on a list to be assisted. By the time the process is over the Church will have assisted 65 families. And by assisted we mean fully furnished homes for 65 families. The Church provides everything from beds, and couches, to dishes and cleaning supplies. Benjamin Yeung, a University of Alabama student and volunteer notes that with each family the volunteers go in and literally set up the unit. They put furniture together, make beds, literally leave the unit ready for the family to move in. He as well as other volunteers note that frequently as they move the family in, they also take the time to pray with the family and to listen to stories of the family's struggles. Pastor Plant adds that 31 of the assisted families have been adopted by the Church for the long term, and that they intend to have a relationship with these families to help offer the light of hope to them. And Pastor Plant adds that they do so without expectation. He doesn't care if anyone joins his Church because of these actions, which is not why they did what they did or are doing what they are doing. To Pastor Plant the answer to the question of why is simple, "Because when God blesses us, all he asked of us in return, is our unconditional love for him, and that we take care of the poor."


Content Archived: December 20, 2013