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From Ruins to Revival: The Remarkable Comeback of Lighthouse Church After Hurricane Michael

Five years after Hurricane Michael ravaged Florida's Panhandle, Lighthouse Church in Panama City stands as a testament to perseverance
Five years after Hurricane Michael ravaged Florida's Panhandle, Lighthouse Church in Panama City stands as a testament to perseverance

Five years after Hurricane Michael ravaged Florida's Panhandle, Lighthouse Church in Panama City stands as a testament to perseverance. Lead Pastor Cole Bailey reflects on those challenging days with gratitude for CBN's Operation Blessing, praising it as a powerful, life-changing force for good.
Scars from Hurricane Michael are still visible in Panama City Beach. Where the former Lighthouse Church building once stood, now there's just a mere concrete slab that once supported a thriving congregation. 
"When you're in Florida, a Category 3 hurricane might not worry you – but when it escalated to a five, we knew it was serious and we evacuated," said Pastor Bailey. 
The first Category 5 storm to strike Florida's Panhandle, Michael became the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. It claimed 59 lives and caused an estimated $25 billion in damage. 
After 24 years of serving this community, Lighthouse Church lost its entire physical site to Hurricane Michael except for the ground it once stood on. The church's foundation in faith, however, remained unshaken. 

Pastor Cole Bailey, an Air Force veteran, brought his military experience to bear when Hurricane Michael devastated Panama City Beach. As pastor of Lighthouse Church, his leadership was instrumental in organizing the community and coordinating relief efforts. He vividly recounted the pivotal moment when a helicopter from CBN's Operation Blessing landed at their ravaged property, bringing much-needed aid and volunteers to help restore hope and order.
"I get a call from someone from Operation Blessing and they said, 'We're looking for a church to partner with, someone in the area where we can come in, we can set up operations and begin to do what we do,'" Pastor Bailey recounted. "And I said, 'I'm your guy, I'm your guy.' And they said, 'Okay, can we land a helicopter in your parking lot?' And I was like, 'Come on, bring that helicopter here!' And I start telling everybody else like, 'Okay, Operation Blessing from CBN, they're bringing a chopper in, y'all, right now. They're on their way in.' And whenever that helicopter landed, we met a man named Tom. Tom got off that chopper, man. He shook my hand, and we walked around, and he said, 'Can we set up here?' And I'm like, 'Our place is your place. Do anything you want to do. I mean, we're so, so thankful that you're here.' And they came in and just brought peace to chaos." 
Volunteers brought chainsaws, hot meals, and a spirit of perseverance. Pastor Bailey saw it as the power of faith in action. 

"They came in with resources that blew our minds," said Bailey. "They came in with hundreds of volunteers just at one location. We were able to serve 38,000 hot meals after that storm. Resources are coming in, equipment is coming."

Stephanie Robinson has been a part of Lighthouse since it started in 2000. 

"I knew God was going to move, but it's hard to see in that, you know, that devastating time of just everything that God had kind of built, just plummeting," said Robinson. "But it was amazing to watch the community of God just immediately step in."

Despite the storm, Stephanie says the church found its true strength in the faith of its people. Today, the new building stands in a renovated movie theater across the bridge in Panama City. 

"And it's a beautiful picture of God taking the destruction and bringing something out of the ashes really, and truly just exploding here," said Robinson.

Pastor Bailey mentioned the church is experiencing significant growth, with multiple services each week, and they currently do not have enough chairs to accommodate everyone attending. He highlighted that they have 1,300 people participating in small groups weekly.

"But this church right here is so thankful for when Operation Blessing landed on our property and helped us through the hardest time of our lives," said Pastor Bailey. "I cannot express how life-changing and how powerful that ministry is." 

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