For two weeks, the Lord had woken Willie George Epps up in the middle of the night to pray.
He knew God was preparing him and people around him for something big… but he had no clue as to what or when.
It was Sunday as usual in Talbotton, Georgia and church folk all over the town donned their best and entered their chosen establishments of worship.
But the normalcy of this day did not last long after the sermon’s final “Amen”.
“I had just left the church and was visiting family members, when all of a sudden a roaring sound came out of nowhere,” Pastor Copeland reports.
“It looked like a war zone, as the rain was still coming down.”
The worst tornado that had ever ravaged the town had just wrecked its way through Talbotton.
The National Weather reports it to have been a category EF-3 with wind speeds of 135-165mph.
According to the official Enhanced Fujita (EF) rating system, their description of an EF-3 quite accurately depicts the scene Pastor Copeland saw:
“Severe damage. Entire stories of well-constructed houses destroyed; severe damage to large buildings such as shopping malls; trains overturned; trees debarked; heavy cars lifted off the ground and thrown; structures with weak foundations blown away some distance.”
However, by the Grace of God, Powell Missionary Baptist Church was spared in the storm – and the following Sunday, Pastor Copeland and his congregation could be heard praising the God of All Sovereignty amidst the destruction.
Willie George Epps was part of the morning’s schedule, testifying:
“When I look back, God was preparing me for the tornado that destroyed my home”.
In fact, he and several other members lost their homes, along with many other town residents. Yet this man stood before them all with a spirit of peace and confidence that only God could have provided.
Pastor Copeland chose to hold this service with several intentions. His congregation expected nothing less and joined him in this mighty effort. They joined to sing praises to the God who spared their lives, and pray deeply for the hurts and mourning taking place in their community.
The sadness filled hearts both in and outside the church walls. Pastor Copeland understood that mourning was a real and necessary process whether of lost life or livelihood, and determined to lead his small army of God’s people in victory.
The victory may not have seemed evident physically in places where devastation just took over.
But the victory of their hearts, sourced from He Who Delivers, Provides, and Protects, is exactly what they intended to relay to the hurting community.
Their efforts of this recent tragedy have touched the hearts of many in the community.
By building a very firm and real relationship with God, our faith is strengthened. We need to be real and honest with Him in every season. With our eyes turned upward, we can constantly receive and reflect His Power and Grace.
God promises protection and final victory for His people. We need to be a people of the King, realizing this victory can be declared even over situations that feel like defeat. With God alone is this even possible.
Pray for the people of Georgia, that all who hear this story will search more into the Hope of Powell Missionary Baptist’s strength.
Pray for the people of Talbotton, that the God of all comfort will dwell in this town richly through the efforts of His people.
And lastly, please pray for the people of Powell Church and Pastor Copeland that they continue to receive His comfort and grace personally to lift their mourning hearts and equip them with the means and perseverance to keep moving forward.