BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A coastal church in Georgia plans to reopen for its first Sunday service in 10 months after Hurricane Matthew last fall sent smelly floodwaters surging into its sanctuary and adjourning buildings.

It’s been a slow rebuilding and recovery period for Cavalry Baptist Church in Brunswick. When the powerful storm raked the Georgia coast Oct. 8, a foot of storm surge flooded the 81-year-old church sanctuary as well as its fellowship hall and education wing.

The surge included murky, bacteria-filled water from nearby marshes and drainage canals. Saturated drywall, insulation and carpet all needed to be ripped out and replaced before mold ruined the buildings said the Rev. Don Spires, Calvary Baptist’s pastor.

“It was horrible,” Spires told The Florida Times-Union. “We were just stunned. The smell.”

The church had no flood insurance and had to rely on fundraising and volunteers to get repairs moving. Meanwhile, Spires held Sunday services at the local offices of the Georgia Baptist Association. Some members of Calvary Baptist’s congregation drifted away, Spires said.

The work isn’t done yet. But Spires said it’s complete enough to hold worship services this Sunday in the fellowship hall.

Spires estimated the church needs $250,000 to finish its repairs and renovations that include replacing worn out pews in the sanctuary as well as the dais and the choir loft.

Spires was struggling with the repairs five months ago when John Craven came along. The retired contractor had just moved back to the Brunswick area from Atlanta. He offered to help with the recovery at Calvary Baptist.

“God called me to do this,” Craven said. “I’ve been doing all I can to get the right people here.”

Craven enlisted a roofer he knew in Atlanta to make a proposal on roof repairs. The work got done a month later and the church’s insurance company agreed to pay the claim.

Craven said he’s talked Home Depot and other retailers into giving the church discounts – and, in some cases, donations – on building supplies.

When Spires reopens the doors to his congregation on Sunday, Craven plans to be among them.

“Sunday will be my first service,” he said.


Information from: The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com