DORENA—Bob Munson lost two houses and perhaps some good farmland here thanks to the May 2 decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to blow a hole in the Birds Point levee and operate the New Madrid Floodway.
All of that is nothing, Munson said, when compared to the thought that his beloved church is gone. It tears him up to see Dorena Baptist Church underwater.
“It was my foundation,” said Munson, 85, who was saved in the church in 1952. “When I had my problems, I could always go down there. That church has never been locked. Never. People go in there and pray anytime they want to—never had anything stolen.”
Dorena is located near the bottom of the 35-mile spillway in a pocket where Munson can look over the Mississippi River and see the lights of Hickman, Ky., roughly three miles away. The current working its way through the breached levee comes nowhere near Munson’s 400 acres of farmland, which should help to protect it from sand and debris. Once the backwaters recede, he hopes to get in a crop of soybeans this year.
The church, which runs 12 in Sunday worship, is precious to Munson.
“That’s where my heart was,” he said. “Born and raised down there, saved down there, went to church there since I was 27 years old.”
Dorena Baptist Pastor LeRoy Davenport, 75, remembered that the church began in 1946.
“At one time they ran 150 people or so,” he said. “A lot of people lived down there years ago because the farmers didn’t have the big equipment they’ve got now. They had sharecroppers. The Lord had a purpose for that church when they started it, and I still feel He has a purpose for that church. I don’t want to see it die.”
Munson and Davenport are having a discussion about the church’s future. Munson says it is in Dorena. Davenport disagrees.
“Dorena is dead,” the pastor said.
Munson admitted the two houses he lost to the flood were vacant.
“Nobody wants to live down there no more,” Munson said.
Munson lives near East Prairie, a community of more than 3,000 people, many of them unchurched. Davenport would like to position the new Dorena Baptist Church near that mission field.
“I feel like if someone went in and worked—and it would take a lot of work—you could build that church,” Davenport said.
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor