SAFFORD – The Oct. 8 hail storm damaged a number of homes and buildings in the Safford and Solomon area. The one thing it didn’t damage was the capacity of residents in the Gila Valley to assist those in need.
The Harvest Tabernacle Church’s building at 700 S. 7th Ave. was a casualty of the storm as its roof support trusses were so badly damaged that the city red tagged the building as unsafe to be occupied.
With no location to hold services, Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley Director Shelly’e De Leon (who is also a member of the congregation) suggested the church make use of the club’s building while the church is repaired.
“I went to my board of directors (for approval) because we have used their van for several years picking up the students from all the different locations that we do from schools,” De Leon said. “We had utilized their van, and I thought that it was time to give back to the church knowing that they didn’t have a place to worship.”
With a repair estimate of four to six months, the church took De Leon up on the offer and has been setting up and breaking down for every regular service on Sundays ever since. The church also utilizes the club building for mid-week programs.
Harvest Tabernacle Pastor Kris Keyes said he was somewhat skeptical about how the transition would go at first, but said it has been a success. All of the church’s services are still being held, including baptisms.
On Sunday, church member Alexis Manning chose to have her baptism in a cattle trough that was placed outside the Boys & Girls Club because she deemed it important enough to not wait until their church is repaired.
“I feel like I should be baptized even if its in a little, tiny bucket,” Manning said. “I feel like that’s my way to getting to Jesus and getting into heaven, so it doesn’t really bother me.”
“We have had some of the best services in a long while,” Keyes said. “We had a visiting preacher last week . . . We’ve baptized several people since we’ve been over here. Nothing’s changed except maybe for the better.”
The congregation is looking forward to getting back into their building likely sometime early next year, but in the meantime it will continue to hold services at the club and make the most of the situation.
“It doesn’t matter what building we’re in as long as we have the people and we have church and we get together to worship God,” Manning said.