Last month, an EF-4 tornado with sustained winds of 145 miles per hour ripped through the communities of Hattiesburg and Petal in Central Mississippi.  None of the area’s four PCA churches sustained facility damage; however, a number of congregants’ homes were affected.

The PCA’s Mission to North America (MNA) was quick to respond. “Within 30 minutes of the storm hitting, we were on the phone doing assessments,” says Sherry Lanier, MNA’s Disaster Response Facilitator. “Less than 24 hours after the storm, we had teams on the ground.”

MNA quickly recruited volunteers to help with debris removal, tarp installation, and cleanup. “We worked all day in a blinding rain,” recalls Lanier of one of their initial workdays. MNA then worked to equip area churches. Lanier met with the staff at Hattiesburg’s largest PCA church, First Presbyterian. “Not only did she assist us in thinking through what next steps might be,” said pastor Sean Lucas in an update to his congregation,  “but also alerted us to the number of PCA people around the country who want to come to Hattiesburg to help us.”

The weekend following the storm, First Presbyterian decided to use their already-scheduled missions conference as a service opportunity. They cancelled Saturday’s conference activities and made it a workday. Over 100 volunteers from three surroundings presbyteries showed up to help in areas around First Presbyterian, and in Hattiesburg’s low-income neighborhoods.

Some of the storms most severe damage took place in Petal, home of the state’s oldest PCA church, built in 1919. A hardware store next to the church was completely destroyed, but Petal Presbyterian stood unharmed.  Volunteers have been helping several church members repair damage to their homes.

Lanier expects the need for volunteers to continue over the next several months.  First Presbyterian is opening their facilities to host weekend teams, and will be coordinating their work orders. MNA asks that all potential volunteers register online first.

For updated information on relief efforts, including how to register as a volunteer or make a donation, visit pcamna.org or call Sherry Lanier at 678-294-3012.