With a Management in Information Systems degree in one pocket and a background in construction, Rev. Keith Monk began his career as a part-time local pastor with Pleasant Grove UMC in Hulaco, Ala., on Easter Sunday in 2010. To focus on his ministry, he left his construction business behind.
On April 27, 2011, the sparsely populated town of Hulaco was struck by an EF-4 tornado with a path one-mile wide with sustained winds of 190 miles per hour. The storm left a trail nearly 47 miles long from Cullman to Arab. The town of Hulaco, nestled between Morgan, Cullman and Marshall counties, almost failed to receive federal disaster assistance because of its location.
Approximately 125 homes were damaged or destroyed in the tornado that ravaged Hulaco. Monk immediately went door-to-door to check on each homeowner. He met community members at the shelters.
Pleasant Grove UMC did not sustain damage, but the parsonage – a mobile home sitting nearly 500 yards from the church – completely disappeared. Monk has yet to find any evidence of the parsonage. The church van was also crushed in field across the road. It has since been replaced.
Monk believes the greatest mission field resulting from April's storms is to restore the lives of the people of Hulaco. He has been out in the town every day working to do just that.
Monk partnered with case manager Joy Privett of the Marshall County Long Term Recovery Committee and with Bill Cater, the Mountain Lakes District Disaster Recovery Coordinator. Once he communicated the needs of Hulaco to the North Alabama United Methodist Disaster Recovery Team, volunteer recovery teams were sent to help begin rebuilding.
In the Hulaco area, Monk serves as a coordinator for the North Alabama United Methodist Disaster Recovery Team.
Since August 2, Monk has brought eight volunteer recovery teams to the Hulaco area. Those teams have constructed three new homes from the foundation almost to completion for the Pirkle, the Casey and the Thomas families. Teams have also repaired damage on two additional homes. As soon as more funding is secured, construction will begin on a fourth home.
Monk’s ministry goes further than just rebuilding. He baptized the stepson of the Thomas family. Their house imploded while they were seeking shelter when the tornado came through. Volunteer teams have almost completed their new home.
For this part-time local pastor, his life’s work has become full-time ministry. His construction background proved invaluable for the town of Hulaco, but his heart for the people of Hulaco will never be forgotten.