Church congregation opens hearts to tornado victims

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Help is on the way to those in North Mississippi. One local church congregation has opened their hearts and collected a vital ingredient for survival.

Associate Minister of St. Paul United Methodist Church Cliff Burris said, "This community has experienced such a blessing from all over the world to help us, and to love on us and care for us in times when we were wounded."

Seeing and hearing about the devastation caused by mother nature's fury is all too familiar to residents of South Mississippi.

"Thousands of people showed up here at our local church for two or three solid years," Burris said.

That's why when the recent disaster struck members of St. Paul United Methodist Church didn't waste any time returning the favor.

"Even before, we the pastoral staff, can offer opportunities people were are already calling," Burris said.

The church decided to collect water and the outpouring of donations has been exceptional. Members like Terra Scott Rondeau understand the need.

Rondeau said, "It's important there are a lot of people in Smithville right now that are hurting that are needing and it's the least that we can do by bringing a few gallons of water."

It also hit home for church member Chris Duke.

"Katrina, it was our hour of need and now it's their hour of need," Duke said.

All the collections will be loaded on Monday and hand delivered by church members.

"About four or five people will deliver as much of what we have collected and assess the needs that are still there," Burris explained.

"And then come back and communicate with the local church this is what we are planning to do and how we are planning on being part of the recovery for them."

Duke encourages everyone to get involved.

"The doors are open whether it's through the Red Cross or through your churches whichever way or medium you choose to go through give a hand to these folks."

And it doesn't even have to be monetary help.

"We can give prayers and hugs, find little stuffed animals and teddy bears for the children who are scared and hurting right now," Rondeau said.

"Responding to people in need is something we constantly keeping in front of ourselves," Burris said.

And the church has shown that, with their drive and their dedication to stay with Smithville until they are whole again.

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