On March 2, 2012, Morgan County, KY, and the town of West Liberty were struck by an EF-3 tornado that took seven lives and brought severe destruction, especially to the center of the town and to other areas throughout the community. The tornado was on the ground for 23 minutes and cut a swath 36 miles long across the county.
Many people and churches responded to the need for help in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
Food, clothing and other basic needs were met in an outpouring of generous care. In the subsequent months, the hard task of rebuilding the community was tackled: Buildings were demolished, debris was removed, homes were repaired and restored, new homes are being built, and businesses are coming back. In addition, some $30 million from government and private sources has been pledged to move West Liberty forward into the future.
Much credit goes to Judge-Executive Tim Conley and a large team of persons in Morgan County who have banded together to plan for the re-building effort. Judge Conley has been a strong leader in expressing the plight of the county and the solid hopes and dreams that our people have for the future.
The ecumenical Long Term Recovery Team has focused its efforts on families and homes.
The Kentucky Annual Conference sponsored Impact Kentucky: Hope Reigns! on August 25, 2012. Some 1000 volunteers fanned out across the 10 counties that were touched by the March tornadoes.
Morgan County hosted 145 of those volunteers for a day of worship and work, the efforts directed by the people of the West Liberty UMC, and led by Sue and Rev Jamie Brunk. Jamie Brunk was appointed pastor of West Liberty UMC in June 2012, just months after the deadly tornadoes.
The West Liberty United Methodist Church was totally destroyed by the tornado on March 2, along with six priceless stained glass windows that highlighted the church. The parsonage was rendered unlivable as well. The congregation immediately knew that they wanted to re-build, and set about the process accordingly. With help from the Kentucky Annual Conference, a home was purchased and renovated for the parsonage. There will be a larger footprint for the location of the new church on the corner of Prestonsburg and Main. The Building Committee has been in place for several months, congregational dreams and visions have been advanced, the property has been surveyed, and an architect has been chosen. The people of West Liberty UMC are hopeful and prayerful and excited for the days to come.
In the meantime, the congregation continues to worship at the Morehead State University - West Liberty Campus building. There is an auditorium there, utilized as the courtroom in Morgan County during the week, and for worship on Sundays. Hence the church slogan: You get justice during the week, and mercy on the weekend. And the “resurrection” sign on the church site in town proclaims: West Liberty United Methodist Church - Jesus is coming back, and so are we!