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  • Baptist Beacon

A small church serves as a large witness in the wake of Gaylord tornado

by Mike Durbin

GAYLORD, MI – An EF3 tornado ripped through Gaylord tragically taking the lives of two people and injuring more than 40 on May 20th. The winds reached up to 140 mph as they flipped cars, destroyed homes, and damaged businesses. It also brought the town of 4,200 people together as neighbors immediately started helping one another. The grit and resilience of Northern Michiganders was clearly on display as the town pulled together and started the recovery. So was the love of Christ though area churches. Tim Patterson, Bob Kiger, and I surveyed the damage and witnessed the church and community response firsthand.

One of the newest churches in Gaylord stepped forward in a big way. Pastor Jeremy Bowling started Passion Church about a year and a half ago. After seeing the damage caused by the tornado, he immediately offered the church building to be used however needed.

Bowling says: “We partnered with…the Evangelical Free Church. We are on the West side of town, and they are on the East side. We took the donations here and they took the donations there. The tornado hit in the middle. We’ve had lots of people in the community help by donating, including people in the church and the Food Bank. It’s been an awesome opportunity to reach out and show people the love of Christ.”

A non-profit called “Kids Santa and Company” messaged Pastor Jeremy and offered toys for the church to distribute to children affected by the tornado. Bowling says, “He brought not just toys, but brand-new toys. Lots and lots of them for the children who lost everything in the tornado. There’s a whole community of people that have been displaced. Their children are without their toys, no doubt confused and devastated. If I was a kid, I’d want my toys.” Passion Church is giving them those toys.

Michigan Disaster Relief Director, Bob Kiger, connected with other relief groups serving the community, and offered Michigan Baptist help. After seeing all Passion Church is doing, he said: “The love of Jesus is shining through in the midst of the disaster in Gaylord. Passion Church has established a donation center in their church, and they are supplying affected homeowners with toys, food, clothing and other needed items. A small church has become a large witness because of their obedience to Jesus!"

Pastor Tim Patterson shared, “It does my heart good to see when churches and people come together to make a difference in their community. It is especially true when one of our church plants that is only a year old is making such a difference.



Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.


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