Southland Community Church boosts disaster recovery with volunteers, generosity
GREENWOOD, Indiana — When a tornado outbreak erupted in December — including a massive twister that devastated multiple communities in southwestern Kentucky — Southland Community Church stepped up in a big way. Churchgoers immediately raised more than $31,000 in addition to their usual tithing and contributions to the church’s Faith Promise program.
The church donated those funds to The Fuller Center for Housing to be put to work in the long-term recovery efforts facing Kentucky communities. The Rev. Steve Schellin, who started the church 13 years ago with his wife, Stephanie, knows a thing or two about the long road ahead of families whose lives were turned upside down by the tornado because he has been at the epicenter of a deadly tornado outbreak himself.
On April 3-4, 1974, in what was then the largest Super Outbreak on record, 148 tornadoes touched down in 13 states and the Canadian province of Ontario. Of those 148, 30 were rated either F-4 or F-5 major tornadoes — still the most major tornadoes associated with a single outbreak. One of those tornadoes struck Xenia, Ohio — Schellin’s hometown and site of the deadliest touchdown of the outbreak with 32 people killed and more than 1,500 injured in the city. Half of the structures in town were either heavily damaged or destroyed. Dr. Ted Fujita and his team determined the twister was the most powerful of the outbreak and originally assigned the twister a rating of F-6 before ultimately doing away with that rating as “inconceivable.”
Schellin and his church want the people of Kentucky to know that they will not be forgotten, even as attention shifts to other news stories and future disasters. They understand The Fuller Center for Housing’s commitment to help communities recovery for the long term.
“I remember how we got instant response for a couple of weeks, and then it was rough sledding after that,” Schellin recalled of the 1974 disaster in Xenia. “So I get it.”
In its 13 years, Southland Community Church has been committed to the Great Commission, spreading the Gospel by serving others and being the hands and feet of Jesus in the community. That includes having sent multiple volunteers and teams through Men For Missions — a ministry of Greenwood-based One Mission Society to serve with Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in recent years.
“It’s been about missions from the day we started the church 13 years ago — has always been,” Schellin said. Because of the mission trips to serve with the Disaster ReBuilders, members of Southland Community Church were familiar with Fuller Center philosophies and had first-hand experience with the accomplishments in long-term disaster recovery.
“We knew (Fuller Center) was doing work to respond to the tornadoes in Kentucky, and we’d already seen the type of work you’re doing in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and other places,” Schellin said. “We’re always grateful to discover new partners, and I’m grateful to know Mr. Fuller’s vision — his real vision — is continuing now with what you are doing and that it truly is to be ambassadors of the Gospel, not just to hammer nails. That is what we’re all about, as well. We’re enjoying coming alongside what you’re trying to do.”