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Hurricane Idalia Damages Two AG Churches, Convoy on Site

An AG church in Florida and one in South Carolina experienced significant damages due to last week's hurricane; Convoy of Hope arrived in Florida shortly after the storm cleared.
Two Assemblies of God churches experienced significant damage from Hurricane Idalia last week according to district representatives, while Convoy of Hope was already in position to enter the area before the hurricane even struck.

Live Oak First Assembly of God in Live Oak, Florida, experienced significant roof damage, reports Peninsular Florida District Superintendent Terry Raburn. The rural church, pastored by Michael Townsend for the past 15 years, also had trees downed and fences knocked over. Townsend’s home was also damaged by the storm.

“It’s going to be a while before buildings are repaired,” Raburn states, “but the rest of the district really escaped serious damage, and we’re grateful.”

In South Carolina, Loris First Assembly of God, a church of about 70, was flooded by eight inches of water throughout the building. Pastor Dustin Wright and a group of volunteers have already ripped up and removed the ruined flooring.

“We livestreamed our service on Sunday,” Wright says, “and we hope to possibly use the fellowship hall because it just had cement floors, but we have to wait for professionals to examine it and possibly treat it before we can use it.”

Wright, who says the church was not in a flood zone but was flooded in 2015 and again this year due to hurricanes, believes broken drainage tiles (that are supposed to redirect water from saturated soil) and construction in the area over the years has led to the church property becoming a backup for a major drainage tile.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to do (financially), but our church really needs a portable PA system now and maybe a tent to meet in,” he says. “We’re still paying on the loan from the 2015 flooding . . . it’s been hard because the church was just really starting to gain momentum.”

Convoy of Hope had response vehicles positioned outside of the hurricane zone before Hurricane Idalia made landfall in West Florida. Once the storm passed, Convoy moved in and set up one of its main distribution hubs at Perry First Assembly in Florida.

As of Saturday evening, Convoy had partnered with volunteers to distribute nearly 170,000 pounds of food, water, and relief supplies to more than 8,800 survivors of the hurricane.

Although Perry First Assembly didn’t experience significant damage, pastor Perry Stephens said in a video message that there were a lot of people that were hit hard by the storm.

“(Perry) is really a poverty-stricken area,” Stephens said. “There’s a lot of need here. A lot of individuals are struggling to survive. For as long as I’ve lived here, we’ve never had any big storms here . . . driveways are buried by the trees, there are power lines that are down. It’s heartbreaking because these are our families, these are our community members.”

Although the need is beyond measure, Stephens stated that Convoy of Hope has given people hope that they can make it.

“I think because of the amount of love that is being poured out on our community by Convoy of Hope, that’s given us the hope we need,” he said. “. . . Today, it’s our turn to receive this compassion, and so I’m very thankful (for Convoy of Hope).”

To date, the Georgia, North Carolina, Florida Multicultural, and Southern Latin districts have not reported significant damage to any other AG churches.

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.