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Tornadoes damage PC(USA) churches and destroy homes in the presbyteries of Ohio Valley and Arkansas


Ferncliff Camp & Conference Center in Little Rock is ready to host church mission trips to help replenish the stock of disaster kits

June 3, 2023

A tornado took off the steeple and damaged the sanctuary roof of First Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, Ind. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church)

This spring’s tornadoes, which took the steeple off First Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, Indiana, and destroyed 200 homes in and around Sullivan, Indiana, came on top of tornadic destruction in and around Little Rock, Arkansas.

“This is a pretty close-knit presbytery. People are asking how they can help and what they can do,” said the Rev. Susan McGhee, executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Ohio Valley, which includes both Martinsville and Sullivan. While disasters “draw people closer together, there have been close ties [throughout the presbytery] to begin with.”

The Rev. Stewart Smith, general presbyter for the Presbytery of Arkansas, reported damage to Wynne Presbyterian Church, nearly an hour west of Memphis, Tennessee, and near misses to three PC(USA) churches in the Little Rock area.

A tornado punched this hole in the roof at First Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, Ind. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church)

“It’s been neat to see people rallying together [across the presbytery],” Smith said. “A couple of pastors had their homes damaged, and people in their neighborhoods rallied to help. ‘Look for the helpers,’ Mister Rogers used to say, and we have certainly seen that.”

The presbytery has a Disaster Response and Preparedness Team. Learn more here.

At Ferncliff Camp & Conference Center in Little Rock, the executive director, Joel Cory Gill, put out a statement explaining how Ferncliff has been involved in the response.

“Ferncliff has been an excellent partner,” Smith said. “Over the years they have become an outpost for mission. What they’re doing for mission is been a big benefit for the community and the region, and it has kept them visible.”

Ferncliff is also home to a 10,000-square-foot Disaster Assistance Center where Church World Service Gift of the Heart kits and supplies are stored. Many of those, Gill said, are headed out the door to aid people affected by the tornadoes. Learn more about the contents of the kits that are stored at Ferncliff here. Watch a brief video on the Disaster Assistance Center and how mission teams can provide service there and with other Ferncliff ministries here.

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Ferncliff Camp & Conference Center in Little Rock

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Jim Deweese, Graphic Designer, Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Michelle Diallo, Accountant, Financial Reporting, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)

Let us pray

Lord, strengthen, guide and bless us as we labor together to bring your love to those who need it most. We thank you for those who serve. May their obedient efforts continue to bear fruit in the lives of many. In your name we pray. Amen.

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