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Churches Show God's Love as Fla. Panhandle Residents Return to Ruined Homes


MEXICO BEACH, Fla. - Residents who fled Florida's panhandle ahead of Hurricane Michael are beginning to make their way back home to see if they have any home left.

"Everybody we knew lost their house. Everybody.  And their jobs," Mexico City Beach resident Emily Hansen told CBN News

"The devastation. It's like a bomb just went off here," said another resident. 

Urban search and rescue teams from across the country are going through the hardest hit areas like Mexico City Beach. They're seeing firsthand the wreckage that people once called their homes. And they say it's devastating. 

"Basically what's happened is that people who are closer to where the water was and the water surge, some of these homes are completely gone and all that is left is the foundation," said Stephanie Palmer, team manager of Florida Task Force 2. " Those homes have actually gone into other homes as well, the ones that were standing, have kind of compounded and stacked up against each other if you will."

In Panama City Beach, churches are ready to help even though they weren't spared from the destruction. 

Destiny Worship Center lost the side of its children's building, but that's not stopping them from serving their community. 

The church is helping collect and deliver basic necessities to those in need.

"Really we're beginning to communicate to take supplies here on the beach level and bring them over to Panama City and Springfield and Callaway, where the churches there were really destroyed, major damage, and allow them to be collection points for the supplies that people are giving us and distribute to the people in need," Wayne Asprodites, the worship center's pastor, told CBN News

Just down the road, the Lighthouse Church building took a more direct hit. 

The eyewall of the hurricane came right through this area.

But members of the church won't let damage to their building keep them from being the hands and feet of Jesus.

"I think we all know that's just a building. It's just a building," said Pastor Cole Bailey.  "We can build a building but we want to make sure our community is taken care of.  We have teams out right now.  We have seven teams out with chainsaws and front-end loaders. We're moving trees and making sure that everybody is accounted for, and that they can get out and that they get the aid that they need."
Pastor Bailey says that by meeting the basic needs of his community, he's able to pursue them for Christ. 

"I can tell you that I love you all day long, or I can show you that I love you," he told CBN News.  "So our neighbors, if they've ever wondered if we love them, they're about to find out for sure when they see one of these dream team t-shirts on."

CBN News also found Mercy Chefs in Panama City.  This ministry can serve up to 18,000 meals a day to victims, volunteers, and first responders. 

"We'll be able to stand up three separate locations around Florida and Georgia as needed," said Gary Leblanc, a Mercy Chefs representative. "But from those sites, we send food out to different distribution points. So one kitchen can always overcook the site we're on. So we take that to then go further into the community or further into where the damage was the worst."

As devastated as the area is, God can be found.  Not in the destruction, but in the response. 

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