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Pastor says Ft. Ogden church will come back stronger (Aug. 19, 2004)

Pastor says Ft. Ogden church will come back stronger (Aug. 19, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Pastor says Ft. Ogden church will come back stronger

Aug. 19, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0144}

NOTE:  A headshot of Springer is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By the Rev. David Springer**

FORT OGDEN — The eye of Hurricane Charley came straight through Fort Ogden Friday, Aug. 13. Charley came ashore in Punta Gorda-Charlotte Harbor, eight miles south of Fort Ogden, as either a category 4 or 5 hurricane with winds around 140 miles per hour. It had obviously not lost much, if any, power before plastering Fort Ogden, apparently accompanied by tornado winds.

FORT OGDEN — Fort Ogden United Methodist church has been closed off since Hurricane Charley hit because of the damage it sustained. The wind blew inside the sanctuary from one side of the building to the other, breaking through stained glass windows on opposite sides of the church, according to the church's pastor, the Rev. David Springer. The floor is tilting, and pews, Bibles and other items are turned over and scattered inside. It's not known yet if the church will be condemned. Photo by Michael Wacht, Photo #04-0077.

Our beautiful, historic church sanctuary suffered severe destruction. The two large stained glass windows were knocked out. Pews are strewn and piled all over one another. Pew cushions are everywhere, from caught in knocked-down trees in front of the parsonage to buried in the sanctuary debris. The baby grand piano is destroyed. Chancel furniture is strewn everywhere. Can't even find the offering plates! However, the cross on the wall above the altar table stands tall and undamaged! I've been told the ceiling has openings and the wall is not stable. Outdoor hallway ceilings and walkway awnings are damaged or crumpled.

Trees are down and scattered everywhere. Electrical wires are strewn all over the grounds and a large transformer is lying at the corner of the church. Glass and roofing are strewn all about, making it very difficult and dangerous to move about.

The parsonage was badly damaged. Windows were blown out, some roofing destroyed, and the floors and furniture are covered with glass and debris. A large piece of aluminum awning over a church walkway was picked up and hurled like a bullet through a living room window right onto the couch and a chair in which I would probably have been sitting had I been there. Fortunately, as I listened to the warnings, I chose to evacuate to my parents' home in Sebring. At present I am still not able to reside in the parsonage.

Because I was in Sebring, I could not get to Fort Ogden until Sunday since Route 17 was closed at the border of Desoto County. When I arrived on Sunday morning, I was in total shock as I looked at the historic treasure of United Methodism totally destroyed. I was prepared to have some kind of prayer service or whatever the people needed. However, no one showed up because the people were dealing with their own problems of destroyed property and shock.

The first thing we did was take many, many pictures for our own use and insurance purposes. I had to travel to Sarasota County to use my cell phone to call my district superintendent. I am now in the process of visiting the local members as fast as I can get around to them. I am listening to their stories, weeping and praying with them, and assuring them of God's continued love and grace. I am also directing them to the shelter set up in Fort Ogden where they can receive food, water and ice.

FORT OGDEN — Windows were blown out of the parsonage at Fort Ogden United Methodist church, and there is significant water damage inside. The church's pastor, the Rev. David Springer, had to remove all his belongings. Photo by Julie Bullerdick, Photo #04-0078.

In the midst of all the devastation and despair, good things were happening. My mother stayed back in Fort Ogden to greet any people who might come by and begin making a path through my parsonage. In mid-afternoon three people cut their way to the front door and announced they were volunteers from Sarasota and came to help. They had cold water, food, chain saws, and plastic for the windows and were ready to do whatever they could. My mother declares there were three angels sent from God just at the time when she was feeling the most helpless and hopeless.  They worked for about four and a half hours cutting tree branches, clearing off the parsonage roof, nailing plastic over the windows and cleaning debris out of the house. They also helped place plastic over one of the large stained glass windows that had very little damage to the glass so it could be preserved to go into our rebuilt church! We don't know their names, but God knows, and the thanks and appreciation we expressed to them cannot begin to tell them how much their helped meant to us that day!

Fortunately, our fellowship hall is relatively unscathed, and we plan to begin services there Aug. 22 at 10 a.m. 

My message to my congregation is we cannot lose hope. It may seem all is lost, but out of all this we can come back stronger than ever. God is still on His throne, is still able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ever hope for, and with God's help, we will make it through this tragedy.

In the meantime, I am there to help in anyway I can.

Florida Conference United Methodists are encouraged to send contributions to "Florida Storm Recovery Fund" Conference Special #605 to their local church. Church offerings should be sent to the Florida Conference Treasurer, The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.

Individuals or groups interested in coordinating a group to assist with Hurricane Charley relief and recovery efforts should contact the Florida Storm Recovery Center at 1-800-282-8011, extension 149. The Florida Conference Storm Recovery Team can be contacted by e-mail at

For conference news and updates related to Hurricane Charley go to


This commentary relates to Florida Conference Disaster Response.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Springer is pastor of Fort Ogden United Methodist Church, Sarasota District.