Area pastor of tornado-damaged church puts strength in faith

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, April 10, 2024

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PORT ARTHUR – Standing in the rubble of his storm-damaged church, the Rev. Walter Allen recalled his thoughts upon seeing the building he pastored for more than 40 years.

“Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am thy God. I will strengthen, and I stand on God’s words,” Allen said while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his brother, Johnnie Allen, while quoting Isaiah 41:10.

Allen is the leader of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, 1749 13 Street, that was heavily damaged during Wednesday’s storm, likely by a tornado.

The site was bustling with recovery activities as a bulldozer moved debris Wednesday morning from the road in front of the church and emergency crews worked other tasks.

A Port Arthur Police Department officer pulled the reverend aside and asked that church members not enter the still-standing portion due to the danger of collapse. As the conversation was ongoing with the officer, a woman exited the back portion with church items just as the bulldozer struck a downed utility line, which caused a snap.

Lincoln Grayson, chairman of the church deacon board, soon exited the still-standing portion with a hat and Bible and handed the items off to Allen.

This wasn’t the first time the church building saw storm damage.

“We have had situations where we had some crisis going on. Severe winter storm, the sanctuary was damaged. Blessed, recovered,” he said. “(Hurricane) Harvey, the whole thing was damaged, had to gut the whole sanctuary. God blessed us and we came back even stronger. So here we go again. God will bless us, we know he will, and we’re going to come back even stronger.”

Allen noted it was church neighbor Jake Johnson who alerted him of the church’s damage.

Johnson said he saw the tornado across the parking lot of the church before it hit.

“When it hit, the whole roof went ‘boom,’” Johnson said. “Once it hit I picked the couch up and got under it.”

Rev. Allen’s wife of 41 years, Carla Allen, took a seat in their car as her husband finished speaking with church members who raced to the scene to help in any way they could. She was at a loss for words before saying “God will get us through.”

— By Mary Meaux