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TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Many churches throughout Northeast Mississippi were affected by Monday’s tornadoes. At least five churches in Tupelo were hit, several in Louisville and more in Columbus. Today, as they gathered to worship, the spirit and determination of this Tupelo congregation is stronger than ever.

They filled the family life center of St Luke United Methodist Church to give thanks. The church sits in Tupelo’s Joyner neighborhood and took a direct hit from the tornado. Pastor Dr. Rick Brooks, learned about the damage through a phone call and social media.

“I took a deep breath and said know what to expect, expect the worse and hope for the best and of course it was very dramatic driving up through Joyner seeing right next door the houses leveled, ” says Brooks.

Since Monday, the church has ministered to victims and has acted as a staging area for volunteers and businesses who want to help out.

“The sense of unity and excitement, the need to be together, to thank God, give thanks for our blessings today, to worship. There are some who are very hurting because their world has been rocked and have experienced loss but to know all of that and the great context of whats really important and that we are here for one another has been so powerful and it was powerful today,” says Brooks.

Dr. Brooks has been through a similar situation before. He was pastor of a church in Bay St Louis when Hurricane Katrina hit and he used Sunday’s sermon to encourage others to keep shining the light of Christ during tough times.

“Of course being right here in the middle of the disaster area, it’s been real important we could be part of the community and be a support to these families that have lost so much,” says Michael Storey, one of the church ushers.

“It’s very important to us to continue having church services and all get together as a church and make sure that everybody is ok and it’s very important for us to continue with church even though we have damage,” says Church Member Christian Henderson.

After the service, members and guests enjoyed lunch in the family life center, which will be the center of activity for the church until the sanctuary, classrooms and offices are rebuilt.

St. Luke UMC will continue to operate its food pantry, one of the largest in the area. A youth mission trip to Ecuador is still planned for later this month.

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