By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
JONESVILLE – The flood waters were almost to the steps of the home of Jamie Cole March 20 but nothing was going to deter him from getting to church.
With much of the Larto community battling four to five feet of floodwaters, the only way Cole, and many of his neighbors, could get around was by boat. OK, if that is what it took.
So last Sunday morning, Cole put on chest waders, loaded his Bible in a ziplock bag, got into his boat and made the four-mile trek to Larto Baptist Church, his favorite destination.
“Everywhere we go, we have to go by boat because of the high water,” Cole said. “I figure if I can go to work and town by boat, I can certainly go to church by boat.
“It’s the only means of transportation right now,” he continued. “If you go anywhere it’s by boat. I wasn’t going to stay home just because I had to go by boat.”
The first time to come to church on a boat, Cole said the experience tickled many friends and family, including himself.
“My kids, who are grown, loved it and I even thought it was cool,” Cole said. “How many times do you get the chance to come to church in a boat?”
Clay Fuqua, pastor of Larto Baptist Church, said that determination to reach church no matter how difficult the path may be is indicative of a transformation in Cole’s life. Fourteen months ago, Cole attended a revival at Larto Baptist and accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior one evening.
“Since then, he’s been a changed guy,” Fuqua said. “By whatever means possible, he wants to come and worship.”
Ironically, March 20 was to have been the church’s high attendance Sunday. Around 25 showed up at a church which normally averages 45 on a typical Sunday morning.
While the water eventually rose close to the church, it did not come inside the facility.
Fuqua said in the 1950s, the congregation voted to move to a location [where the church presently sits] that was on a high mound where flood waters likely would not be able to get inside the church building. Looking back on their decision, he is thankful for the vision the congregation had back then.
“Their decision was such a blessing. God must have had a hand in their decision to move the church so it wouldn’t be in danger of having water get inside our building,” Fuqua said. “Now we are high up on a mound and it’s likely water won’t get inside.”
‘Likely’ is the key word.
With the possibility of more rainfall forecast for today and Thursday and two slow falling rivers, many in the community are keeping a nervous eye on lake levels. There is the very real possibility the flood waters could rise again and they really don’t want to contemplate what could happen if the water levels do show a dramatic rise.
“The water is still very high and only has started going down 2-3 inches every 24 hours since Wednesday. Unfortunately, I understand we are in for some more heavy rain and severe weather,” Fuqua said. “So, please pray this water will go ahead and get out of here and that it would leave as fast as it came in.”