‘God had a purpose for us,’ said Oklahoma church member who survived two tornadoes
Avis Duncan, with the squirrel. (Photo provided by Duncan family)…
The nation turned its attention to southern Alabama after a devastating round of tornadoes tore through the region on Sunday.
But the storms, which claimed 23 lives, were only the latest in a string of severe weather disasters that has devastated communities throughout the Southeast, say members of Churches of Christ.
In response to the latest storms, Churches in and near Lee County are setting up disaster recovery centers with supplies provided by Nashville, Tenn.-based Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, or CCDRE.
Members of Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team said they were meeting with leaders of the Tenth Street Church of Christ in Opelika, Ala., to discuss plans to help storm victims in nearby Beauregard, Ala., and other locales affected by the Sunday tornadoes.
Disaster Assistance CoC also is in contact with Churches of Christ in the region, including Auburn, Ala., and is preparing to distribute aid and meals to victims and relief workers. Christian Relief Fund also is providing aid, as is One Kingdom, a ministry of the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La.
Last week, a similar tornado outbreak produced the “same level of devastation — just not the deaths,” said Robert Guinn, outreach minister for the Grant Street Church of Christ in Decatur, Ala.
As soon as those storms hit, church members were on the phone with the congregation’s leaders, asking how they could help, Guinn told The Christian Chronicle. The congregation set up a disaster relief center with supplies from CCDRE.
Last year the church’s elders purchased a truck and trailer to use in local outreach efforts, Guinn said, adding that “a week after they got the truck and trailer, Hurricane Florence happened and they rolled out.”
“They put one message on social media and the community rallied and filled the trailer multiple times.”
The church’s relief efforts “started very humbly,” he added, “but it’s been amazing what we’ve been able to do.”
About 100 miles southwest of Decatur, the people of Columbus, Miss., are recovering from a tornado outbreak that struck their community Feb. 23.
Members of the 10th Avenue Church of Christ had just left their church building after a program when the storms started on Saturday afternoon, said minister Willie McCord. He and his wife rode out the storm in the basement of a small cafe.
The tornado hit the building of a nearby Pentecostal church and “just tore it asunder,” McCord told the Chronicle. “We had quite a bit of devastation here.”
Church members contacted CCDRE and distributed relief supplies.
“We’ve had several people that are homeless,” McCord said. “We put people up in hotels. (On) Tuesday and Wednesday we took care of over 400 people.”
The roof of the 10th Avenue church, where about 110 souls gather for worship on Sundays, was severely damaged, McCord said, as were classrooms and offices. So the predominantly black congregation worshiped with the predominantly white Columbus Church of Christ.
The 10th Avenue members were “just overwhelmed” with the welcome they received, McCord said, adding that the Columbus church members “have stuck by our side ever since this happened. In fact, several of their members have been here every day.”
Members of other congregations, including the North Columbus Church of Christ and the Highway 69 South Church of Christ, also have assisted in relief efforts, McCord said.
“It’s been a beautiful thing for the community to see us as fellow brothers and sisters,” he added, “just Christians working together.”
Back in Decatur, Guinn said that the recent wave of storms have reminded him of a line from a popular hymn: “Every time I watch a storm I know the awesome power of my Lord.”
“When it gets to that line … my mind goes to Jesus on the Sea of Galilee,” Guinn said. “and I think, ‘Oh, he calmed that storm.’ That’s the God we serve. He could calm as storm like that, and that is awesome.
“You hate that such devastation has to happen, but leave it to God to take something that seems tragic and turn it in to something beautiful.”
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