Everyone remembers where they were on Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, when terrorists flew planes into both towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the buildings collapsed. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Nearly 3,000 people died in a terrorist attack on Americans.
Across the nation, Americans flooded churches, and Southeast Christian Church was no exception. The church was nearly filled to capacity.
Don Waddell, who was Southeast’s involvement minister in 2001, said any time there is an event that reminds us of our own mortality, people turn to God.
On the first Sunday after the attack, Preaching Associate Dave Stone and Senior Minister Bob Russell preached a sermon titled, “Biblical Answers to a Nation’s Questions.” The service opened with patriotic songs “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.” The congregation stood to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” midway through the service.
Russell said the attack opened doors to speak on radio, television, both secular and Christian, answering tough questions about God and Christianity in light of the national tragedy.
Southeast hosted prayer services on Sept. 11, Sept. 14 and Sept. 18.
Everyone wanted to do something.
The church set up a help hotline and a display of memorial crosses. Volunteers ran out of the 20,000 red, white and blue ribbons they made and distributed before weekend services.
In a special offering Sept. 29-30, the congregation gave $486,000 to help victims of the attack. Funds were distributed by New York pastors associated with the Orchard Group, a longtime church-planting partner of Southeast.
The money met a variety of needs: food for families, funeral expenses, counseling. It was given to grieving widows, laid off workers, injured firefighters and shopkeepers with businesses near the trade center. Funds paid for repairs to a church that was vandalized because it had an Arabic congregation.
Time and time again, the generosity of Southeast lifted up the name of Jesus.
Stone flew to New York City to walk through lower Manhattan with local pastors. Once bustling busy blocks were silent. Sidewalks empty. Stores vacant. A month after the attack, the air still smelled like burning metal.
They went door to door to visit shopkeepers, asking about their families, personal losses, their business and what sustained them. Once pastors were convinced there was genuine financial need, they explained that they were there to help. They prayed over each need and wrote “Jesus Loves You” on the bottom of each check.
Those who received the checks had trouble believing a church in Kentucky cared.
Funds met immediate needs, but they also opened doors. Pastors became familiar faces on New York streets and friendships continued.