Against All Odds, Displaced West Pastor Is Providing Hope

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WEST (May 6, 2013)--Nearly three weeks ago, West was in chaos.

Pastor John Crowder

Things are now more peaceful, but there are still many who remain burdened beneath the painful losses resulting from the April 17 explosion at West Fertilizer Co.

As residents search for funds to rebuild the town they love so much, there are many also searching for spiritual healing.

West is a predominantly Catholic town because of its Czech heritage.

Since the blast, hundreds have flocked every weekend to masses held at St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption.

A number of residents also attend First Baptist Church of West.

Both churches have been assigned with a relatively difficult task--providing spiritual guidance for many in the town during an extremely tragic time.

Pastor John Crowder of First Baptist Church in West says the responsibility of that task can be overwhelming.

"If you sat down and listed every emotion you could think of, we've probably gone through every one of them,” Crowder said.

"There's not a seminary class on disaster relief or disaster recovery so I’m learning as we go."

Crowder is in the same boat as many in West, he lives in Zone 3, the area of the worst damage,and his house has been destroyed.

Crowder, his wife, and his daughter are all displaced, their lives turned upside down as they push to rebuild their home.

But even against the odds, Crowder writes and delivers his message every Sunday to his congregation, which he says can be difficult at times.

"Sunday is especially overwhelming; I mean how do you know what to say that's going to help folks?" Crowder said.

"There is a sense of responsibility, to be the person who is strong and to not show that weakness and that pain."

Crowder says out of the many he’s ministered to since the explosion, his heart hangs the heaviest for those who lost more than just a house.

“I didn’t lose a loved one, but I hurt so much for the people who did,” Crowder said.

“This whole process has reminded the community that our ‘stuff’ can be replaced but our loved ones can’t.”

Outside the First Baptist Church, a saying sits in the sign that normally displays service times. If they can’t make it to his service, Crowder wants residents to know one thing.

“The sign outside says ‘God is bigger than this,’” Crowder said.

“That phrase has been a source of hope for us. What happened is terrible, and we won’t make light of that, but God has a plan and we will find the strength to continue on.”