True Vine Church finds a new home after tornado destroys building

Published: Mar. 27, 2022 at 10:24 PM CDT
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ARABI, La. (WVUE) - There were new faces welcomed and new voices heard Sunday (March 27) at Living Proof Church in tornado-damaged Arabi.

Pastor David Pagan was among those newcomers - spending Sunday not at True Vine Church on Friscoville Avenue. He’s worked there for more than 15 years, but after Tuesday’s EF3 tornado, there’s nothing but collapsed walls, fallen bricks, and debris at his congregation’s sanctuary.

He was at the Living Proof 10 a.m. service counting his blessings, having canceled a prayer service just half an hour before the storm came through last Tuesday night.

“God always has a reason for something,” Pagan said. “If we would’ve been over there at night and the thing happened at 7:45 (p.m.), we would’ve been leveled. We would’ve been dead.”

The morning after the tornado, Pagan and his primarily Hispanic congregation realized they were left churchless, and that’s when Living Proof’s Pastor Randy Millet decided to lend a hand.

“I asked him, ‘Do you have a place to have church?’ And he said ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Well come on, take a ride with me and I’ll show you my church and if you want to meet here, you can meet here.’” Millet said.

The faith leaders quickly hit it off, bonding over their love of music, family and faith. They say they were eager to unite and even bring in another congregation that used True Vine Church when it was unoccupied.

“We’re going to have English church at 10 o’clock, Spanish church at 2 o’clock, and Brazilian church at 6 o’clock that will be in Portuguese,” Millet said.

Living Proof’s pastor says his helping hand is personal for him, since he was in the same situation not long ago.

“We lost everything in Katrina. Our church got 10 1/2 feet of water, our house got 6 1/2. I know what it’s like to be churchless and I know what it’s like to be homeless,” Millet said.

Both pastors say it was a tragedy that brought them together, but their relationship will continue to flourish even when this church is rebuilt. Pagan says not much survived the tornado, except the altar and some furniture. He essentially will have to rebuild a whole new building.

Until then, Living Proof leaders say they are ready for the bigger crowds.

“I would imagine an extra 100 people would be coming now,” Millet said.

And the added congregation is hoping to give back what generosity they received by helping some of their own members struck by the tornado.

“The Bible says those who love the Lord, all things work for good,” Pagan said.

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