The Alabama Church finds hope and strength to rebuild after the devastating tornado

Tufts of carnation pink insulation pop against a backdrop of wet black asphalt. The walls that once kept them hidden have been blasted open and reduced to rubble. Surrounding the rubble are tattered trees, shredded bare as if cut by a pair of blunt scissors.

These are the aftermath of a tornado that hit Wadsworth Baptist Church in the rural town of Deatsville, Alabama, on Thursday.

While all seems lost, hope remains as the senior pastor and Wadsworth congregation pick up the pieces and rebuild their house of worship.

Wadsworth Baptist Church in Deatsville, Alabama, after a tornado on January 12, 2023.

Wadsworth Baptist Church in Deatsville, Alabama, after a tornado on January 12, 2023.

Wadsworth Baptist Church senior pastor Josh Pendergrass was at home Thursday afternoon when he heard on the news that a tornado was approaching Wadsworth Baptist Church.

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After the storm passed, Pendergrass called a member of the congregation who lived near the church to ask how he and his family were and if he had a chance to check on the church.

The Lord went to the church and called Pendergrass back.

“He was sobbing and so emotionally disturbed I couldn’t understand a word he was saying,” Pendergrass said. “I knew immediately that the storm had taken our church building.”

A crushed tree surrounded by debris next to Wadsworth Baptist Church in Deatsville, Alabama.  A tornado hit the building on January 12, 2023.

A crushed tree surrounded by debris next to Wadsworth Baptist Church in Deatsville, Alabama. A tornado hit the building on January 12, 2023.

Pendergrass then got into his vehicle and drove to Wadsworth. However, a trip that would normally have taken 15 minutes took nearly an hour as roads were closed by police as many homes and properties along the way were damaged by the storm.

“The fear built up because I couldn’t come [to Wadsworth]’ said Pendergrass. “I knew some of my people were there and I needed to be with them.”

When he arrived he looked up at his hilltop church and saw the devastation.

A new welcome center renovated a year and a half ago was completely gone, the glass doors blown out and the entire center exposed to the elements.

The 50-year-old community also completed a $30,000 project at their children’s center the week before. That, too, was gone, according to Pendergrass.

A bare foundation at Wadsworth Baptist Church when the building that supported it was blown to pieces.  The church is located in Deatsville, Alabama and was hit by a tornado on January 12, 2023.

A bare foundation at Wadsworth Baptist Church when the building that supported it was blown to pieces. The church is located in Deatsville, Alabama and was hit by a tornado on January 12, 2023.

“In that moment, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Why? Why is that? We worked really hard,'” he said.

Wadsworth had also just restocked his pantry, which distributes between £15,000 and £20,000 of groceries each month. However, after the tornado, canned goods, frozen chickens and hams, and other groceries can be seen strewn around the church parking lot.

Members of the Wadsworth Baptist Church congregation look on at the devastation caused by the tornado.

Members of the Wadsworth Baptist Church congregation look on at the devastation caused by the tornado.

Pendergrass said the ladies who run the pantry stocked them and left the church just an hour before the tornado.

“When I found that out, my reaction went from ‘Why?’ to ‘thank you’ because it could have been a lot worse than it actually was,” he said.

A crushed tree surrounded by debris next to Wadsworth Baptist Church in Deatsville, Alabama.  A tornado hit the building on January 12, 2023.

A crushed tree surrounded by debris next to Wadsworth Baptist Church in Deatsville, Alabama. A tornado hit the building on January 12, 2023.

Today, the Wadsworth Baptist Church congregation remains hopeful for their congregation.

“We have no doubt that we will rebuild on the hilltop and be the shining light,” Pendergrass said. “It is only our hope that the light we shine after the desolation will be brighter than the light we shone before – for as we shine after the desolation we bring more glory to God.”

Damage at Wadsworth Baptist Church in Deatsville, Alabama, after a tornado on January 12, 2023.

Damage at Wadsworth Baptist Church in Deatsville, Alabama, after a tornado on January 12, 2023.

Those interested in helping rebuild can donate to the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Fund.

Pendergrass said the organization will support both the Wadsworth Baptist Church and nearby families whose homes were destroyed by the tornado.

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