The church family huddled together and prayed in the basement while the tornado barely missed the building.
Brad Childres was settling into his pastorate at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Danville, VA. Desiring to see a revitalization take place, he joined a cohort of other SBC of Virginia pastors who were also looking to revitalize their churches. He drew encouragement from these fellow pastors and began planning.
The Tabernacle, another SBCV church in Danville, had a strong AWANA program for children and helped Woodlawn start its own AWANA ministry. On Sunday evening, April 15, 2018, while the children attended AWANA, Childres opened Woodlawn’s front door to see a tornado coming straight for them. The church family huddled together and prayed in the basement while the tornado barely missed the building. In fact, it came so close that it bent the cross on the top of the steeple and did damage behind the church, downing several trees.
After he saw the devastation in the area, Childres recalls thinking, “This is a chance for Woodlawn to re-engage this community and show God’s love to them. If we don’t react with help, then we will be showing this community that we don’t care about them.” He understood that this tragic moment could be used for God’s glory.
The Disaster Relief (DR) team of the SBC of Virginia and God’s Pit Crew sprang into action, being God’s hands and feet in the community. The members of Woodlawn Baptist Church became a volunteer force and mobilization center for their community. God worked good out of this disaster, providing Woodlawn Baptist Church an opportunity to be reenergized and revitalized. The people Woodlawn had been trying to reach were the very ones they were able to reach through cleanup efforts.
In the weeks ahead, the church and community banded together to help one another, and they developed a deep mutual appreciation. The church aided the community, and the community supported the church. After the initial aftermath of the storm had passed and cleanup efforts subsided, Woodlawn hosted several services to honor the first responders and community organizations that had made the tornado recovery possible. Many in the community attended, and Woodlawn was able to host its community and honor those who had done so much during that difficult time.
Because of love expressed in tangible ways, Woodlawn Baptist Church has seen many new faces come through its doors. They have rejoiced in five salvations, five baptisms, and a 25% increase in worship attendance.
April 2018 could have stopped the revitalization efforts of Woodlawn Baptist Church. Instead, a moment of tragedy became a moment of revitalization. Woodlawn has bright days ahead and multiple opportunities to serve its community.