I awoke to the sound of thunder, and like many others immediately thought of the tornado that ripped through our area two weeks ago then continued on a path of destruction across the United States leaving more than 300 dead and over one thousand injured. Soon after this mornings’ thunder, it began to hail, and before I could get the TV turned on to check the weather I heard a strange sound. I quickly realized it was the sound of the weather radio which just yesterday I picked up from FEMA at the Tushka Fire Department. According to the radio, our area was once again under a severe thunderstorm warning.
In the past, these warnings caused little concern until a tornado warning is issued. In fact, I enjoy the sound of thunder and the beautiful display of lightning. However, on Thursday evening, April 14, the communities of Tushka and Atoka were shaken by a massive multi-vortex wedge EF3 tornado. Tushka School where my daughter attends high school and my son graduated two years ago, was completely destroyed, as well as Hillcrest Baptist Church. More than 200 homes and businesses were also damaged. Of those structures, 149 were destroyed leaving many families with nothing.
My son and his cousin left their home for shelter with the massive tornado just behind them as they sped down the road to safety. Then we began hearing reports of two deaths next door to where the boys live and of much destruction around their home and along the road they traveled to safety. I cannot describe the feeling of hearing my son’s voice after the tornado passed over the safe room where they took shelter with my cousin’s family.
There are many similar stories of lives spared in a community where everyone knows everyone affected. Friends who normally would have been home, but something prevented them from being there as their homes were completely blown away. Friends who ran to their bathroom and clung to the toilet as winds lifted their bodies off the floor and the tornado sucked the walls and roof from their home. Friends who wrapped their bodies around their children and clung to a pipe fence just outside the safety of the cellar as the school was destroyed around them. If the tornado had happened just hours before, students would have been at the school, and there would have been no room for those whose only shelter was the school’s safe room.
During the storm, many were unable to see God because fear had consumed us, but His presence was quickly recognized as neighbors and friends began checking on the safety of others, removing trees from roadways, pulling people from their homes, and providing shelter to those in need only moments after the storm passed. Help has come from near and far. Strangers tarped roofs, boarded up windows, and brought heavy equipment to clear debris. Volunteer firemen and their wives devoted many hours to organizing assistance and working where needed in their community. Churches have offered meals, lodging, clothing, and water as well as helping with the cleanup. The list goes on and on. All examples of God’s presence in the storm. The community is left shaken physically, emotionally, and financially. Yet in the midst of all the loss, confusion, and anxiety, people are praising God to be alive and have been blessed through the love shown by so many. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The help offered and love shown to those affected reminds us that God has the power to bring something good from any situation.
Although the tornado has passed, the storm isn’t over. There is much cleanup and rebuilding to do. The storm will continue until homes, businesses, and the school are repaired. It will continue as many feel anxious each time they hear thunder, but we can trust that God is always with us. Sometimes we go through storms in life which leave us feeling shaken as if hit by a massive tornado. God is bigger than our problem whether that problem is losing everything in a natural disaster, losing a job, health issues, financial struggles, relationship problems, or the loss of a loved one.
Often storms of life also have long-term effects that must be dealt with and rebuilding of our lives that must occur over time. We may not be able to see God during the worst part of these storms of life, but we learn to rely on our faith in God and trust that He is there. Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, “though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Faith in God allows us to have a different perspective and strength even when we’ve lost everything. When we place our faith and hope in God, we find a true peace in the midst of the storm that comes from Him.
Whatever storm you are facing, trust that God is there.
Video created by Coby Sherrill from donated pictures.