ELIZABETHTOWN — Elizabethtown Baptist Church held a rededication service on Sunday afternoon following extensive repairs and renovations after a tornado ravaged the campus three years ago.
“We're very excited,” said Rev. Chris Carroll.
The renovations and repairs came courtesy of the April 16, 2011, tornado outbreak that spawned numerous tornadoes throughout the state and in Bladen County. The church took a direct hit from a tornado that left the campus in ruins and littered with debris. The tornado left the sanctuary with a bulging wall and the education buildings battered, windows blown out, damage to the roof, and porticos torn off the building.
On Sunday, the scars of that encounter were all but a bad memory and the buildings and campus stood pristinely welcoming those who came to celebrate the rededication.
Carroll describes what happened and the renovation process as a sort of three-phase process — devastation, restoration and revitalization.
“It was the best thing that could happen, and it was also the worst thing that could happen,” said Carroll. “We are thankful the church took the brunt of it.”
Carroll said while there were lives lost on that fateful day, they also know that it could have been much worse had the path of the storm varied in the slightest.
While Carroll said that it was both shocking and disappointing to learn of the destruction, he said at the same time, it proved their faith was unshakable. Carroll said this led to the restoration portion of the process.
Carrol said there were a lot of questions like “Why? Why me? What did we do wrong?”
Carroll said the correct question was: “What now?”
He said what he refers to as the restoration phase was where the process of healing began.
“We are so grateful for those coming not only from Bladen County but from everywhere to work alongside each other,” said Carroll.
He said he felt this event had brought the churches and the community much closer together. Carrol said over the next two and one-half years the campus has been repaired and the church has grown.
“So now we are in the revitalization phase,” said Carroll.”The buildings will be used for the glory of Christ.”
The campus now houses an after-school program as well as a Christian Academy that serves grades K-6.
“The next stage is to unleash the grace of God on the town of Elizabethtown,” said Carroll. “We will join together and share the love of God and we do that with an increase in ministries. We work with Bladen Crisis Center, increasing the Heart of Christmas ministries …”
Carroll said he sees this as a tremendous opportunity for the church moving forward in ministry to the community.