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Small town sanctuary’s first service since the storm



Wynne, Arkansas – A tiny town sanctuary that was destroyed by a catastrophic tornado has finally rebuilt itself.

Since the storm, this is the first service. On March 31, 2023, an EF-3 tornado in Wynne demolished the First Baptist Church, necessitating a start-over for the neighborhood. On Sunday, June 16, the recently built church had a soft opening.

First Lady Rebecca Wilkerson remembers the instant she learned the church had been attacked. Putting the people who make the church feel like home first, Wilkerson stated that although a building can be replaced, people cannot.

“You just make sure that no lives were taken,” Wilkerson said. “I believe we had some people cleaning the church that were inside.”

The new church, in a historic move, has moved across the street from the old one. According to Pastor Lesley Wilkerson, they returned to their origins.

“This is the original site of where the original church was built over 130 plus years ago,” Wilkerson said.

Members were overjoyed to be returning after nearly a year of construction, as Sunday services were held at a nearby funeral home.

Jerlene Duncan, a churchgoer, has been a First Baptist member for almost thirty years. She expressed her longing for a large meeting place.

“It was okay where we were, but it’s nothing like being at home,” Duncan said.

Another seasoned participant, Valeria Jones, voiced her happiness by exclaiming, “Oooh, I feel good sister, I feel like shouting!”

According to Pastor Wilkerson, there were a few technical issues. Prior to the official inauguration on Sunday, June 23, a soft opening was held to try out all of the new equipment.

“We will work through those kinks this week, test everything again, and get everything back up and running,” Wilkerson said.

Ever since the tornado hit, members have been waiting for this day. First Lady Wilkerson stated that despite the tragic history, she is concentrating on the promising future.

“Anytime there’s devastation by a tornado, you know that’s an open door for god to bring something new,” Wilkerson said.

First Baptist is delaying its grand opening service times. The church service will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed by Sunday school at 10:30 a.m.
Next week, things will be back to normal.



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