One Year Ago!

by Chaplain Brunetti

Last year, tornadoes devastated Alabama.  Florida Baptist Disaster Relief responded by sending hundreds of volunteers.  Many Florida Baptist Chaplains spent weeks ministering to the survivors.  Chaplain Brunetti, a Florida Baptist Chaplain, serves with the Sheriff’s Office in Nassau County.  Donna Brunetti, his daughter-in-law, survived the tornado in Cullman, AL. She wrote the article below.   At the end of the article, a picture of her daughter, Deanna Brunetti, baptized at the future Eastside Baptist Church site in Cullman, AL.

One year ago today, our little town got turned upside down and inside out! As I read through my post not long after, I cried all over again. Such a tremendous sense of loss in those days! My parents were here recently, and I showed them our downtown area. So much has been cleaned up, that it's harder now to see the devastation. Dirt has been placed in the giant holes that our HUGE old trees left, and the grass has covered them, so to one not familiar with our town, it didn't look too bad. There is a building that was hit that had a mural painted on the outside of the building, and they reused the bricks they could, but without regard to the mural (maybe on purpose, I don't know), so you can see the outline of what was lost in the storm. First Baptist has sent its steeple off to be repaired, so it looks funny right now. Our old building has been leveled, and the hole filled. Some of the buildings and homes have still not been repaired, but most have been repaired or leveled. The local restaurant that had been around almost 100 yrs that I mentioned in my first post has been reopened. Our community has come together in a way that only tragedy can draw people close. Our church has been sharing a building with another church in our community whose services are the opposite times as ours. They have been very generous to allow us an extended visit! If you have ever shared your home with someone for an extended time, you know how hard it can be to have two families in one house. This church has never made us feel unwelcome! They have been kind and generous with us for a year now! And, at this point, it looks like a year more. We have tried to do our part as well, tidying the sanctuary after we finish, and sharing responsibilities with the lawn. This past Sunday, we had church at our new property for the first time! Our association has a portable baptistery, and our denomination baptizes those who have chosen to trust Christ for salvation. The church we are appreciatively sharing, baptizes infants, so they had no baptistery. So, we had the association's baptistery brought out to the property and filled so we could baptize all the people who have trusted Christ this year. We all brought our camping chairs and had church outside, and then we moved into a metal building still on the property and celebrated how God is still working in our church by baptizing six of our kids, one of whom was Tenderheart! It was such a touching moment! One of the children was baptized by his grandfather, and our pastor baptized the other five, including his youngest daughter. I remember walking away thinking, God, You are so amazing! Satan thought by destroying our church building, he could destroy us. Thank You that the church is the people and not the building! Thank You for continuing to work in our faith family, drawing us closer to You, drawing our children to You! May You be glorified as we rebuild!

As time marches on, and the one year anniversary is here, I sense of loss has lessened, but not the sense of God's movement! God has his hand over our town (and my own family)! Despite the devastating losses of property, our death toll was low! For an F-4, that's pretty unbelievable! God is doing new things in our town, in our faith family, and individually in our own hearts. I can't speak for the whole community, but our faith family is going back to Scriptures, examining what our purpose should be, what we should be about, and how the Scriptures say to do it. We have not been without our ups and down corporately since that time. Our music minister had a massive heart attack after Thanksgiving, and we weren't sure he would survive it. Our hearts cried out, "God, haven't we suffered enough?" God healed him, and he has started leading us in music again just this month. It feels so great to sing from the choir loft again! While he was recovering, his wife, who's also our pianist, fell off the stage backwards and busted her head open. She recovered completely too. We've had others fall as well, to the point were we made it a church-wide "rule" that you have to stay vertical! ;) All of the injuries have been relatively minor. I think God wants us to see that this is still a battle. We haven't won, just because we didn't let the loss of our church building keep us from gathering to worship, we have to keep fighting, because Satan will not give up. The enemy is real, and he wants to destroy us. (1 Peter 5:8b-Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.) But, praise God, Jesus' words in John 16:33 are just as true! (John 16:33-I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.) In Christ, we can overcome the world too!