10 years later: Phil Campbell church destroyed in tornado thanking God for providing

Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 6:57 AM CDT
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PHIL CAMPBELL, Ala. (WAFF) - 10 years ago the lives of so many people changed. A historic tornado outbreak left its mark on our state - including the town of Phil Campbell in Franklin County. A congregation is giving thanks to God for helping bring them out of the ruins.

This tattered book is one of few treasures pulled from the rubble of Mountain View Baptist Church in Phil Campbell. An EF-5 tornado destroyed the building 10 years ago.

“This piece of pine came through the window of my study. It buried up in this little Layman’s Bible Commentary and it split this page. Psalm 74 “God’s House in Ruins” and “God the divine judge,” said Mountain View Baptist Church Pastor Sammy Taylor.

That book, with the pine stick impaled into the spine, now sits on a shelf in Pastor Sammy Taylor’s office. A reminder of a day he’ll never forget.

“When the tornado came I was in a storm shelter about a couple of blocks from the church with some other neighbors. I heard the tornado come over from there we ran down to the church. When we got here I noticed a young man running faster than me. He said it’s all gone, Brother Sammy. The church building is gone and all the houses are gone,” said Pastor Taylor. “I looked a the cemetery at the time we had 185 tombstones, monuments in that cemetery and there were only about 10 standing. It was a tragic thing to look at.”

Five members of the Mountainview Baptist Church died in the storm.

“I can remember having a triple funeral. I never had a double funeral, not for sure a triple funeral. I said Lord if you don’t help us we won’t make it. His spirit spoke to my spirit and said everything is going to be okay,” said Pastor Taylor.

The building destroyed in the storm was built in 1995. It had just been paid off when the EF-5 twister hit on April 27, 2011. Some 13-hundred volunteers with Builders for Christ poured into Phil Campbell and worked to construct a new house of worship. A cross sits inside the sanctuary signed by many on the volunteer team.

“It’s all about the cross. It’s all about the gospel.”

A theme Pastor Taylor wanted to bring into the new building while keeping some elements of the old sanctuary. The stained glass windows are reminiscent of what once lined the inside of the former church. There’s a special window pane coming into the area of worship itself that features a dove holding an olive branch. It was saved from the rubble.

“We wanted the theme of the building to be the cross. We have a cross over our baptistry. We have a cross pulpit and then the Lord’s table we have a cross. There is a tiny cloth in the fabric. Then we have a cross in the windows,” said Pastor Taylor.

Mountain View Baptist Church celebrated its 100 year anniversary in March. The church has weathered a lot of storms through the years - including the one that wiped out their house of worship 10 years ago. Scars from that day are still visible. Pastor Taylor says he tries not to focus on the past - but on a future that is focused on hope and healing.

“Jesus said you’ll have tribulation but be of good cheer I’ve overcome the world. We knew he was in control of everything.”

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