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CALHOUN, GA—Several families were impacted when a F3 tornado hit Gordon and Bartow counties in Georgia on Jan. 30, 2013. The home of Del and Elsa Patton, Calhoun Church members, was hit hard.
“My wife went to the church to work on an up-coming event. I was here, and Troy, our son, was in the other building. I heard a 747 airplane coming at me, and I said, Uh huh, no, no, no,” Del said of the tornado day. “I was in the living room and found someplace safe. I went to bathroom and hunkered down.”
The tornado caused great damage to the Patton’s home, their son’s home, right next door, their car, and their boat. Thankfully, both Del and Elsa are safe and praise God they have a heavenly home waiting for them.
Elsa said the church family support has been wonderful and having the Georgia-Cumberland Academy (GCA) kids has been great.
“They cleaned all the tin, glass, and debris from everywhere—I mean it was just everywhere,” she said. “They even found crystal things that were not broken.”
The Pattons had just spruced up their home with fresh paint and new tile for their fiftieth wedding anniversary last fall.
A few miles away, the home of Calhoun Church members Ivan and Barbara Hansen was also struck.
“Last Wednesday morning in our house, about 11:20 am, the weather radio went off and said a storm was coming by Kingston. It went off again, a neighbor called, and the electricity went off,” Ivan said. “We decided to get to a closet. Two minutes later, the trap door to the attic went up in the air and landed in front of us. I looked up and saw daylight.”
Part of their roof and their entire living room was gone. They knelt and thanked God for their safety.
Ivan said the community has really helped. Their church members have brought them food, the local middle and high school have provided meals, and he especially appreciated GCA sending students to help.
“It is encouraging to see Adventist members’ support,” said Gary Rustad, Calhoun Church pastor. “On Sabbath, the halls were packed with people helping, and I said, ‘We have a great church.’”
Mirako Pozo, a sophomore at GCA, is originally from Ecuador and has never seen anything like the damage from a tornado.
“We got here, and it was really shocking,” Pozo said. “We got into it—picking up wood, throwing wood in the fire, picking up trash and glass. I’m happy I took time out of my day to help someone.”
Hudson Feliciano, a GCA sophomore from Tennessee agreed. “Getting out of school is always great, but I think it is good we get to come together and help people. You have to be a family in times like this, and this really brings people together to help those in need.”
Brigett Pangkey, GCA recruiter, said getting the school involved is an important way for them to connect with and reach out to their neighbors.
“It is just very rewarding. When you hear of all the devastation, it makes you feel empty, and it makes you feel helpless. This is a way that we can connect and give back and feel a part of some of the rebuilding that is going on.”
Even more importantly, it gives students a practical application of a Christ-like response, said Greg Hudson, GCA chaplain. “You learn lots in the classroom, but we want to instill in students a sense of service,” he said.
That sense of service is a thread that runs throughout the Adventist community. Along with the students’ help in cleaning up the destruction, Terry Haight, GCC ACS DR coordinator, was notified of the situation and the State of Georgia requested help on a government level. ACS DR set up in a warehouse in Calhoun and began working with the disaster victims and sharing supplies on Feb. 7.
ACS DR is taking donations and needs items like food, cleaning supplies, or work gloves. At a later date, they will need items to help people re-establish their homes.
“Things do appear to happen more and more often,” Haight said. “Two years ago, we had a tornado go though our area in April, the next one was in March, and now here we are in January with tornadoes.”
You can find the most recent updates about ACS DR on gccacs.blogspot.com
For photos go to http://www.gccsda.com/?option=com_content&task=view&id=3809&Itemid=211.
From the Georgia Cumberland Conference
Written by Tamara Wolcott Fisher, communication director
Georgia-Cumberland Conference Mission for Serving Others
Serve others and build relationships through involvement in a wide variety of community activities and agencies.