Tornado destroys Petal church, but congregation's faith unshaken

PETAL, MS (WLOX) - Even as their beloved church lies in ruins, members of Petal congregation are counting their blessings. On Sunday around 5 pm, a tornado destroyed Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church. Their hearts are broken, but their faith is solid.

For more than 100 years, Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church has been at the center of Petal's Springfield community.

"This church has meant a whole lot to the community," said Deacon Ernest Collins. "Everybody was raised and grown up here. The community has been going here for years."

Then a tornado ripped through the church, tore apart the sanctuary along with several classrooms and offices.

"I had to shed a few tears at the beginning of seeing it because it's something you never expect to see," said church member Larry Smith. "When we saw it, I tell you it brought grief."

Even in their grief, the congregation feels grateful no was hurt or killed because of the time the tornado hit. This past Sunday evening church members went to a service at a Laurel church, rather than holding their normal Baptist Training Union meeting at Mount Vernon.

"We were blessed no one was in the church because we usually have BTU on Sundays at 5 o'clock, but we did not have BTU that Sunday," Collins said. "We were all gone to Laurel."

Church members said they are determined to rebuild. They said although their church building is destroyed, the foundation of their faith is unshaken.

"Right now it's just making us stronger," said Deacon George Trotter. "We know that we're going to have trials and we're going to have setbacks in life, so this is just temporary. It's going to strengthen us to go on, do more for the Lord.

Smith said, "The devil tried to destroy things, but God's got a plan for us. That's the way we see it."

Church members said they're also determined to continue having Sunday worship services because they don't want to lose any members. However, the congregation hasn't figured out where those services will be held. 

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