By Gwen Sisson, Starkville District Communicator
Photo right: Rev. Dr. Embra Jackson with the Rev. and Mrs. Larry Haggard before the commissioning service for the new parsonage.
The EF4 tornado that ripped through Winston County on April 28, 2014 brought with it change, sadness and uncertainty.
For the South Louisville United Methodist Church Charge, there was a mixed blessing in this midst of the devastation -- their pastor, Rev. Larry Haggard and his wife, Eve, were not home when the tornado destroyed their church parsonage.
The Haggards were in Jackson, watching the news helplessly as they received phone calls of the devastation in their neighborhood and in their church family.
"We heard that the police had blocked off our subdivision because it was hard hit by the storm," Haggard said. "At the time, we thought everything was gone. We thought all that we owned were the clothes on our backs. We were truly blessed. We knew that night that stuff didn't matter, that we were okay. And there was calm, a peace that came over us."
Haggard said while it was a blessing to be away, he hated that his church family, friends and neighbors had to go through that horrible night.
"Our people were on the floor in their bathrooms, scared and helpless," Haggard said. "This town will never be the same. Ten people lost their lives. It was a terrible time. But everyone in our subdivision lived. And that is a blessing."
The parsonage building was a loss, but the Haggards were miraculously able to recover 90 to 95 percent of their personal items.
"We didn't realize how much stuff we had," Haggard said.
Haggard said church members who lost their own homes, came together to help them in their time of need.
Despite the staggering personal and community losses, the three churches on the South Louisville Charge began making plans to provide housing for the Haggards. One of the church members allowed the Haggards to stay in a home his family owned that was unoccupied until a new residence could be found. Haggard said church members, Beth Hemphill and Callie Woodruff, were instrumental in helping the Haggards wash and dry all of their clothes and linens in order to get them situated into a temporary location.
"It was great to see all the people who came together to help, not just with the parsonage, but the many others who lost their homes," Hemphill said. "Many thanks to all who helped."
Haggard said most of the members at his three Louisville churches had insurance on their homes and were in a better position for recovery. People throughout the state and nation began helping the next day with money to meet the most immediate needs. The churches Haggard pastors helped the families in their churches who needed financial help, but because their homes and businesses were insured, it gave them the opportunity to help throughout the community.
"We helped our folks and so many people reached out to help us," Haggard said. "Since our church didn't need as much help, we were able to really help others. Everybody just worked together."
About one week after the United Methodist Conference insurance company settled the claim on the destroyed parsonage, a church member found a home for sale that was in great shape and ideally situated near each of the three churches. Haggard said it was a larger, newer home than the previous parsonage.
Recently, district superintendent, Dr. Embra Jackson was invited to participate in a blessing of the new parsonage, along with the Haggards, church members and the community.
"It was indeed a glorious moment to gather with these persons as we praised and thank God for the blessing of this home for pastors who will serve this community and these churches," Jackson said.
Photo above, right: This is the new parsonage for South Louisville United Methodist Church.