Churches provide shelter and hope for devastated Mayfield community – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville
A pair of bells, rung by the minister’s wife, rang in the cold morning air. A church member distributed Communion in plastic cups to people perched on folding chairs. Dozens of people gathered to sing hymns and pray on the sidewalk.
It was the scene on Sunday in the parking lot of First Christian Church in Mayfield as the congregation stood near their torn brick church, torn apart by a tornado. What was a second story and a distinctive dome above the house of worship has been torn apart. Rubble surrounded the structure.
First Christian Church of Mayfield Senior Minister Milton West said their communion table inside was salvageable, but not much else. He doesn’t know if his congregation will worship in the building again, but that’s not what matters most to him now.
âThe most important thing they won was that they saw each other. And it’s good for them, and it’s healthy, and it’s healing. And that’s how you get over it, âWest said.
Members of the Mayfield community have lost homes, loved ones and historic religious buildings. Much of the city is unrecognizable. But building on their faith, the First Christian Church in Mayfield always came together. They weren’t the only ones. Other local churches have responded by rallying to help their neighbors.
Churches near Paducah and Graves County have offered shelter and food as volunteers, with donations pouring in from across western Kentucky and the country.
At His House Ministries in Mayfield, a flurry of people quickly moved into the church turned into a resource center. Semi-trucks of clothing and supplies from other states were sorted through the sanctuary with a hot meal assembly line in the lobby as packages of bottled water piled up outside the double front doors.
It’s a relief for Brenda Moore, who is staying with relatives in Fulton after her Mayfield home became a total loss to the tornado.
âWe have been well blessed here. We have quilts, towels, hygiene accessories and all of the above, âsaid Moore.
Moore was just one of many helped by church volunteers, with a drive-thru cars stopping and asking for supplies.
About ten miles from Mayfield, two churches in the community of Wingo have become makeshift shelters for over 100 people. Heading down Wingo Hill is The Way Community Center, a former factory turned into a youth center. Inside, iced tea is served in Sonic-branded styrofoam fast food mugs, pizzas are reheated in the kitchen, and cots line the large space.
It serves as a warm bed for 22-year-old Austin Cayse and her fiance, who came out of their apartment to see their community transformed by the disaster.
“It’s just hard because you wake up – and we had a little park where the kids played and people brought their dogs – and it’s just gone, you know?” Cayse said, tears streaming down her cheek.
He paused for a moment.
âI really didn’t let myself be treated. “
Beverly Duffy, 65, was lying next to her husband, John, with a Bible on the stand next to her. Duffy is a woman of faith who wholeheartedly believes that she and her hometown of Mayfield will be taken care of in the weeks to come. But that doesn’t change the painful memories of seeing the local monuments she grew up with demolished, she said, also losing two close friends in the collapse of a local candle factory.
âI don’t even know where we’re going from here,â Duffy said. âMayfield, Kentucky is gone. “
Just up the road from The Way Community Center is the Wingo Old Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which also provides shelter for those displaced by the storm. Pastor RB Mays’ message to his congregation on Sunday morning attempted to make sense of what had happened to their community.
âIt’s supposed to hurt. We are not in the world that God originally created, âMays said. “It’s a shattered world with tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and tragedies.”
Mays knows there are going to be physical needs for the weeks to come. Buildings to rebuild, people to bury and debris cleared. But in the long run, he sees faith as the key to helping Graves County overcome the mental scars of this tragedy: âLong after you stop building stuff, there will be people who will remember that night- the.