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Newnan church holds Easter service days after tornado damaged chapel

Calvary Chapel will temporarily hold services at Madras Middle School in Newnan.

NEWNAN, Ga. — The last ten days have left members of Calvary Chapel Newnan tired. Last month, the church fell in the direct path of an EF-4 tornado that ravaged parts of Coweta and Heard Counties.  

Senior pastor Joel Dover said the heavy damage prevented the church from having service there. 

"The metal roof was completely peeled off, water came through the roof, there was standing water, especially in the foyer area, two or three inches of standing water for days," Dover said. "Carpets inside were soaked. All of the chairs and things were covered with glass splinters, windows just blown and exploded out.”

And yet, on Easter Sunday, the church celebrated a new beginning. A member who worked at Madras Middle School helped to arrange a temporary location for Calvary Chapel, which has also held online services in recent weeks.

“We don’t take this for granted. This is a blessing to us,” Dover said. "There’s still gas in the tank. We’re all tired, but you know on a day like Easter Sunday, we’re all excited. This is the most holy day of the Christian year, and we’re in great spirits."

RELATED: Cavalry Chapel minister describes extent of destruction after deadly Newnan tornado

Worship leader JP Garrison's home was in the crosshairs of the March tornado. He told 11Alive he and his family took shelter in a stairwell, as the storm toppled trees around his home. 

"My wife and 7-month-old were in the direct path, and we got down in the stairwell and some windows blew out," Garrison said. "Our woods are gone, but thankfully we’re alive. I felt like that staircase was our personal shield, but it's comforting just knowing God was there with us throughout all that.”

Jerry Carnes spoke with minister Joel Dover as the storm severely damaged the property. But the biggest concern is helping neighbors in the area.

Calvary Chapel has deployed coordinating teams to help people in the community still dealing with storm damage. Volunteers have distributed food and helped saw toppled trees. 

In response to the tornado that hit in late March, Dover said the church has received plenty of help in return. He said he has heard from churches nationwide who have sent prayers and financial donations. Dover said that money was used to buy trailers to transport salvageable equipment to Madras Middle School and replace damaged gear.

RELATED: Tornado believed to have cut 75-mile path from Alabama into Coweta County and was 1-mile wide

“It’s going to be a long time until anything goes back in that building, so we’re prepared to do this as long as it takes," Dover said. “We’re all affected by these things, but we’re very aware God’s going to use this and we’re believing God’s promise that all things, even this thing, really will work together for our good and His glory.”

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