The First Landmark Missionary Baptist Church was one of many businesses to be affected by this tragedy but they have not let it stop them from what is important, getting together and helping each other.
An amazing group of men called the Arkansas Mission Builders have offered their labor to help finish the interior construction of the church. These men are from all over the state of Arkansas and come together to offer free labor in the renovation and construction of churches and youth camps all over the state. They travel a 500 mile radius of Little Rock sometimes ending up as far as Oklahoma or Memphis.
The mission group started with an unimproved youth camp purchased in 1979. The group who purchased the camp, Spring River Association of Churches, asked the Baptist Association to gather enough men to get it into shape. They gathered enough help to renovate this old camp, that it was in use by the spring of 1979.
From this endeavor is where the idea to travel and do this for others arose. The men started the Arkansas Mission Builders in the mid 1980s. The late Archie Beggs was the coordinator of the projects for this group, now headed by Eddie Jean Wright of Paragould. The group does about one project per month. The projects usually last around a week and are planned a year in advance. They stay busy. The group has one project that has been done annually which is an orphanage in Texarkana. The Mission builders go to this Orphanage every year and do repairs and renovations. Howard Brewer said that they have done so much there that the orphanage doesn't need them to come this year.
Since the group's start in the late 1980s they have estimated the cost of labor saved by churches and similar organizations has been between $6 and $8 million.
Howard Brewer of Cave City, one of the organization leaders was in the construction trade for many years and brings a great deal of knowledge to the group. "There is enough experienced members, the rest just followed along and learned through the years," Brewer said.
The Arkansas Mission Builders is made up of a group of retired men who devote their time to helping others. This is their second trip to the First Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. During their first visit they finished all of the frame work and hung the sheetrock in the 6,300 square foot church in four days. This trip they are hanging all of the tracts and completing the ceiling. The only thing the church has to provide for them is the materials, food and housing for their visit.
The women had tables full of homemade food and snacks and all varieties of drinks available for the workers.
The group of about 13 men stayed at three different locations during this stay, one of the members of the church housed five of them, three of them stayed at the building where the church is currently meeting, and five more stayed at a condo the church rented for them.
There is also an electrician, Tommy Baker, who has an R.V. parked outside of the church while he does his part. Baker, accompanied by his wife, sometimes follows the Mission Builders around to help with his part. One of Baker's friends from Florida, Dan Yates, follows him to do preparation work for him. Yates, also housed in his own camper, travels with his wife. Although they reside in Florida, they have not been back there since January.
The church's pastor Carl Faulkner has been in ministry for 15 years. His congregation of 72 members has pulled together to get their church back. Starting construction in late May, the church is in its final stages of completion. Faulkner is excited about the new construction and says the new church will serve people of all different needs, from the handicap accessible bathrooms to the new nursery.
Faulkner stated that many people helped his congregation in their time of need and the Deacon has been there just about as many hours as he had.
Land who owns the old dentist building where the church is currently meeting called just after the tornado and donated the building to use for service until they rebuilt.
Rodney Freeman of Jacksonville called after hearing about the church and offered to make them custom cabinets for the new church at no cost.
"As far as the actual building, we had to pay for that at cost just like normal people, tax and all," Faulkner said.
Faulkner stated that although in many states churches don't have to pay taxes, in Arkansas they do, and no matter how much he has argued this hasn't changed yet.
The church will hold their Celebration Sunday, Sept. 21 and hopes many will attend the dedication.
"Now all we have to do is get enough people to fill it," Faulkner said.