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Tornadoes kill family, destroy members’ homes in three states

Tornadoes that roared through the South in early April killed a family of four who attended a Tennessee congregation, ripped the roof off an Arkansas church building as worshipers took cover under pews and destroyed dozens of church members’ homes in at least three states.

Church groups and relief teams fromChurches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, Christians On Call Network and Freed-Hardeman and Lipscomb universitiesimmediately organized to help feed victims, clean up debris and offercounseling services.
The 100-member Skullbone church, fourmiles east of Bradford, Tenn., grieved the deaths of Brad and TanyaTaylor and their sons, Tyce, 5, and Kyle, 3.
The Taylorswere among 24 people killed in West Tennesseeon April 2 as tornadoes cut zigzagging paths of destruction across the nation’smidsection.
“They were a super family,” saidminister Coy Hathcock, who preached the funeral before the Taylors were buried in a single grave in thechurch cemetery.
Brad Taylor was a church member. Whilehis wife was not, she often brought the boys -— who loved singing “Jesus LovesMe” — to services even when her husband had to work, Hathcock said.
Brad Taylor’s father, Larry Taylor,also a Skullbone member, owns the funeral home that handled the arrangements.
Larry Taylor told The Tennessean that he last spoke to his younger son by telephone10 minutes before the storm hit. The family’s hillside home was taking abeating from golf-ball-sized hail.
Afterward, Larry Taylor couldn’t reachhis son by phone, so he tried to drive over. Trees and downed power linesblocked the way, rendering the main route useless. After three hours twistingthrough back roads, the worried father finally made the three-mile trip, onlyto find his son’s home leveled.
“It basically took my life away,” LarryTaylor told the newspaper. “I’d give everything I had for that not to havehappened. Those little boys were my life.”
Besides the Taylors, four otherfamilies at the Skullbone church lost their homes in the storm, the ministersaid. Several other members’ houses sustained minor to severe damages.

Despite the tragedy, Hathcock said Godprovided blessings.
“Since the storm, we’ve had 19 publicresponses, including two baptisms, from those just within our body at theSkullbone congregation,” he told TheChristian Chronicle. “I don’t know really what it means, except that I justthink it’s brought people into a heightened awareness of their ownvulnerability.
“Last Sunday, there were just lots ofhugs and crying and passion — all the things you would expect to see amongGod’s people.”
In Marmaduke, Ark., members hid underpews when they learned during Sunday night worship that a tornado was headedtheir way.
“I don’t hear well, so I didn’t hearall the commotion,” minister Arvil Hill said. “One man said his ears began topop. Most didn’t realize it (the tornado) was there. You could hear the roofgoing off, but that only lasted a few seconds.”
Three member families’ homes weredestroyed, and seven others were damaged, Hill said. An older member was in hermobile home when the twister picked it up and dropped it down.
She suffered bruises, but no majorinjuries.
A small Pentecostal church loaned thecongregation its building for worship services, and many churches across thenation called offering help.
“One of the members told me, ‘The nexttime you get ready to preach up a storm, don’t do such a good job,’ ” Hilljoked. “I’m 63 years old. What choice do you have but to smile?”
Across the Missisippi River fromTennessee, Mike McDaniel, minister of the Central church, Caruthersville, Mo.,had just ordered after-church dinner at a Sonic restaurant when he heard the tornadosirens. He, his wife and two young children hid in a closet. Before shuttingthe door, he said, “I could see a white sky, and then all of a sudden, I couldsee brown.”
“We had baseball-size hail — some haveeven said they saw it the size of a melon,” McDaniel said. “One of my memberssaid it pounded on the roof like cannonballs, and that’s probably a gooddescription.”
At least a half-dozen member familieslost their homes, while 10 or more members sustained broken windows and roofdamage or lost vehicles, McDaniel said.
“We had a massive tornado,” he said.“It’s absolutely remarkable that we had no deaths.”
Six days after the first tornadoes, asecond wave of twisters killed 12 people and destroyed hundreds of homes inMiddle Tennessee, near Nashville.
The Hartsville Pike church, Gallatin,Tenn., and the Hendersonville, Tenn., church both served as Red Cross shelters.Nine of the deaths occurred in Gallatin. The homes of three Hartsville Pikemembers, including an elder, were destroyed.
The youth group from the HartsvillePike church met that Sunday — two days after the storm — for a devotional andthe Lord’s Supper, then went out to help, interim minister Hugh Fulford said.
“Young people have been out cutting upfallen trees and limbs, clearing debris and performing other acts ofassistance,” Fulford said.
Through its Christians in Action group,the Gallatin Church of Christ prepared hundreds of meals for victims and reliefworkers, and sent out five work crews after Sunday services, minister JasonDuncan said. Several members’ homes were damaged, but no one was hurt.
The Christians in Action group had beenmaking Easter baskets for a children’s home and offering free lawn care to theunderprivileged. After the tornado, the group changed its focus, Duncan said.
“Our church, like most churches, hasits problems and things going on. But for a short period of time, nothingmattered anymore,” Duncan said of the disaster response. “We were comingtogether as a congregation.”

ABOVE: A tarp covers a gaping hole in the back brick wall of Vernon and Odean Stinson¹s tornado-damaged home. The Stinsons are members of the Goodlettsville, Tenn., church. (Photo by Bill Eubank)

May 1, 2006

Filed under: National

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