Pastor Sees Lives Change during Rebuilding
By Emily Nelms*
February 14, 2012—With a degree in Information Systems Management and a background in construction, Rev. Keith Monk began his career as a part-time local pastor with Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church in Hulaco, Alabama, on Easter Sunday 2010. To focus on his ministry, he had left his construction business behind.
On April 27, 2011, the sparsely populated town of Hulaco was struck by an EF-4 tornado. Its path was a mile wide and it packed sustained winds of 190 miles per hour. The storm left a trail of destruction nearly 47 miles long, from Cullman to Arab.
The town of Hulaco, nestled amid Morgan, Cullman, and Marshall counties, almost failed to receive federal disaster assistance because of its location. Approximately 125 homes were damaged or destroyed in the tornado that ravaged Hulaco.
Monk immediately went door-to-door to check on each homeowner. He met community members at the shelters that had been set up for survivors.
Pleasant Grove UMC did not sustain damage, but the parsonage, a mobile home sitting nearly 500 yards from the church, completely disappeared. Monk has yet to find any evidence of the parsonage. The church van was crushed in a field across the road. It has since been replaced.
Monk believes the great mission field that resulted from last April's storms consists of the restoration of the lives of the people of Hulaco. He has been out in the town every day, working for just that.
“Keith has worked tirelessly since the April storm not only to rebuild homes but also help rebuild lives. God's call on his life couldn't be more evident than in how he is serving the needs of those around him in such perilous times,” said North Alabama Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Nancy Cole.
Monk partnered with case manager Joy Privett of the Marshall County Long-term Recovery Committee and with Bill Cater, the Mountain Lakes District Disaster Recovery Coordinator. Once he communicated the needs of Hulaco to the North Alabama United Methodist Disaster Recovery Team, volunteer teams were sent to him to help begin rebuilding.
Monk is a coordinator for the North Alabama United Methodist Disaster Recovery Team in the Hulaco area. Since August 2, he has brought eight volunteer recovery teams there. The teams have built three new homes, from the foundation almost to completion, for the Pirkle, Casey, and Thomas families. Teams also repaired damage on two additional homes, and as soon as more funding is secured, construction will begin on a fourth home.
Monk’s ministry goes beyond just rebuilding: He baptized the stepson of the Thomas family. Their house imploded while they were seeking shelter when the tornado came through. Volunteer teams have almost completed the Thomas’ new home.
For this part-time local pastor, his life’s work has become full-time ministry. His construction background proved invaluable for the town of Hulaco, and his heart for the people of Hulaco will never be forgotten.
Your gift to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, supports ongoing recovery work in Alabama and other states that were affected by historic tornadoes last year and helps to prepare and equip UMCOR to respond to future emergencies.
*Emily Nelms is the information/communications coordinator for the North Alabama Annual Cconference Disaster Recovery Team.