My mom was always afraid of tornadoes. I believe one came very close to their farm when she was growing up and hearing the stories and experiencing it from a child’s perspective settled fear into her soul. Growing up, no sirens warned us of approaching storms, but my mom’s fear often sent us to the basement when storms turned ugly. I remember many times being carried from my bed in my Daddy’s arms to the basement where the wind couldn’t get us. Mom had her purse, favorite jewelry pieces, and her family safe and sound.
The events of Sunday seem unreal.
As I slid into the pew beside Kate, who had come home for the weekend, the kids exited to Children’s Church. I always smile to see so many little ones eager to be in “their” church service. Pastor Adam started to speak when, of all things, I heard my cell phone go off. It’s on vibrate and I was so embarrassed that it was making noise. Then I noticed, my phone wasn’t the only one. Alarms reverberated throughout the sanctuary from many cell phones.
An Extreme Alert! Tornado Warning in this area till 11:15 AM CST. Take shelter now. Sun, Nov 17, 10:51 am
Earlier in the morning I had checked Facebook and noticed a link shared by a friend:
As many of you know, I storm chase and have been a weather fanatic since I was a very little kid. Let me plead with you…. DO NOT take today’s weather lightly. This high risk coupled with the way the models look makes this event EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.
Significant, long track tornadoes rating as high as EF5s are more than likely with this outbreak. The models are showing that these tornadoes may be traveling at 70+ miles per hour. High risks are very rare and are extremely dangerous.
All of my storm chasing friends are very, very concerned about this potential outbreak. I cannot stress enough, please have a plan to get to a basement or shelter very quickly today. It could save your life.
Pastor Adam remained calm and gave instructions asking someone to get the children to the basement, to keep the way clear to the elevator for those who need assistance, to use all exits to get to the basement under the sanctuary. Within a few minutes we were all gathered together, laughing, talking, and praying. Some of the men were outside watching. When they came in, we knew it was serious. The lights flickered, flickered, flickered, and finally went dark. The children were moved to the bathrooms which are smaller and surrounded by cement block walls. Soon we heard little voices singing,
Jesus loves me, this I know . . .
We adults smiled because those little voices were singing truth in the midst of the unknown.
The adults began to sing as well.
I have the peace that passes understanding down in my heart . . .
They said the tornado was just outside, west of us. I looked at my daughter and wondered if my house would be gone. I started to tear up. She used her humor to snap me out of it. They are only earthly things.
The phone rang. The son of two of our members was calling to make sure we were all in the basement. As a the driver of a satellite up-link truck that covers all kinds of disasters, he’d been watching the radar and knew what was coming. We were touched at the concern.
Adam continued to keep our minds off of what was happening, leading us in prayer and sharing the testimony given by one of our members who had been in the tornado of 2003 and survived. Although Eric had trusted in Jesus as his Savior years before, he shared that when he experienced the tornado that day, he was overcome with the knowledge that he was right with God. He was not afraid of what was to come even if that meant death. What wonderful peace comes when you know you can stand before God, not because of what you’ve done or did not do, but because you have placed your trust in God’s Son who paid your penalty, took your place, and has clothed you with His righteousness. We never know what the next moment will bring. Make sure you are right with God – now.
As we waited, they passed out bottled water and goldfish crackers. I felt secure surrounded by my church family, close together, not scattered throughout the sanctuary. It was a calm place in the midst of the storm.
The hymn we sang right before the alarm sounded was:
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is peace; Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is love. There is comfort in life’s darkest hour, there is light and life; There is help and power in the Spirit, in the Spirit of the Lord.
As we left the church, none of us knew the trials that might face us when we returned home. For some, the darkest hour had come.