Helping hands provide hope for tornado damaged church

HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - "My first thought was are we every going to recover?" said Karen Reidenbach.

Reidenbach is a church deacon at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg and was in disbelief looking at the damage done when the tornado swept through.

"It was pretty devastating when we all got here yesterday, started to survey the damage and went upstairs," said Reidenbach.

She said that devastation didn't last long because hope came in the form of helping hands.

"It's just overwhelming to look around to see the numbers of people here and the work that's been done today. If you had seen this place at 9 O'Clock, it doesn't look anything like it does now," said Reidenbach.

"Whatever I can do to be useful and be out of the way is our hope. That's kind of the way our whole team that came up here with. We just wanted to make a dent," said the Reverend Scott Castleman with First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs.

The Reverend Scott Castleman came with members from Presbyterian churches in Jackson County to remind people at Westminister, they're not alone.

"It's you can see the gratitude in their faces and grief and the loss. It's heavy, I mean there's a weight," said the Reverend Castleman.

"As soon as we got a call that they got a direct hit, I was like, okay we're going," said Leslie Kbidahl, a member of First Presbyterian Church in Pascagoula.

Church members said seeing damage like this makes them think back to a time after Hurricane Katrina when they too were devastated.

"It was neat for me to see folks who received help after Katrina who knew exactly how to help. I didn't have to do anything, our folks just knew what to do," said Reverend Castleman.

"We were hurt, not severely but we were hurt. They helped up from up here, we're here to help them," said Lee Kbidahl.

It's that spirit that's left church members grateful. And although their church building is damaged, the faithful said their church body is stronger than ever.

"Wow, have chill bumps just thinking about what I should say," said Reidenbach.

There is a fund set up for the church at all Bancorp South locations.

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