Carved tree

An illustration of Jesus Christ holding a baby and standing next to a young child has been carved from a tree, damaged in the Aug. 10 derecho, at First Baptist Church, 2020 N. Third St., Clinton.

CLINTON — Ten months ago, a powerful derecho wreaked havoc across the Gateway area, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Thousands were left without power on both sides of the Mississippi River, and trees were snapped in two. First Baptist Church, Clinton, sustained minor damage, including the loss of an air-conditioning unit, but the real destruction was to the number of trees on the church grounds.

Doug Murphy, administrative assistant at First Baptist Church, on Monday said that after the storm, he posted on Facebook that the church needed a few volunteers to help with tree removal. About 20 people showed up, he said.

One of the church members came up with an idea to turn a bad situation into a symbol of hope.

“One of the guys said, ‘I know a woodcarver, and I would like to see something good come out of this bad derecho,’” Murphy said.

Murphy said the church member told him that he and his wife would pay for the woodcarver to come to fix up the tree and turn it into something special. Murphy said it just took a day and a half for the carver to create an illustration of Jesus Christ standing next to some young children.

“They sent the carver a picture of Jesus holding the baby with a young child standing by him and gave him the dimensions of the stump that was left and asked if that was something he could do,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the woodcarver told them he would be able to recreate the picture of Jesus with the children if there wasn’t any rot in the tree. Of all the trees that were destroyed, only one tree didn’t have any rot, which allowed the carver to do his job.

Murphy said there’s a message he wants people to take from the carving.

“Hope. After any storm, there’s always a rainbow. There’s always the hope that things are going to get better. I think the idea of the people who sponsor this was to showcase something good that can happen from something bad,” Murphy said.

Last year was a rough year for many across the Gateway area, from an ongoing pandemic to a derecho that hit as the area was trying to recover from COVID. Murphy said the church weathered many storms that brought them all together.

“Even though they had a lot of damage maybe to their house, their trees down and everything else, they wanted to come and respond to the church,” Murphy said. “I thought that was a good thing, a really good thing.”

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