Friday, May 9, 2014

You Can Learn A Lot From a Tornado

Growing up in the South tornadoes and bad weather is a way of life. While this testimony is not unique as many go through the same things, it’s my family’s story of the tornado outbreak on April 28, 2014. My hope is it will inform some that are not familiar with living in tornado prone areas and be a source of encouragement to others.

People living in our area are still a bit jumpy. It was exactly three years ago, plus a day that a tornado tore through about a mile from our home and small town. Our high school was destoyed during the mega-outbreak of 2011. If the tornado had wobbled just a small amount it would have come straight through our house. This was the same line of storms that brought about the tornadoes that destroyed Smithville, MS and towns in North AL that Ten-Four Ministries provided relief aid to local First Responders. Sunday night we got out our emergency weather bag, checked the supplies in it; (i.e. first aid kit, weather radio, gloves, flashlight, hatchet and short pry bar). We added a few bottles of water and emergency blankets. Thanks to our own KT during Sunday’s Cross Encounters Radio, she prompted me about using bike helmets. The kids rounded up what they had and put them in the closet. My wife and son placed an old mattress and pillows in the small room where we planned to take cover. During Sunday night we watched the radar and listened for updates off and on, then started that over on Monday morning. As Monday rolled along we started getting reports of what was coming. At one point, to the west of us reports of hail up to the size of softballs were coming in. Suzanne moved our vehicle under the carport. At this point it was pretty much wait and see over the next few hours. They declared a state of emergency in the area, let schools out, and the local news and emergency agencies were saying, “It's not a matter of if tornadoes were to hit but when and where they were going to hit.”
Later that Monday afternoon it started. The Tornado Siren went off three or four different times. We maintained a watchful eye on the radar. The first pair of warnings were in the extreme western portion of the county, the last warning and siren weren't. The line was headed straight for us. This time when the sirens went off Suzanne and the kids got in their spots, I grabbed some tracts and my Bible, turned the volume up as loud as it would go on the TV and got in the doorway. This small room is in the center of the home. Suzanne sat in there and the kids were in the closet, she was at the opening of the closet in the room and the pillows and mattress was piled around them. I was in the doorway to the hallway as my wheelchair would not go. The television reception kept coming in and out and I was getting tornado tracking information over Twitter. We had several friends and family that could not be reached to be warned, so we kept sending the warning information out over social media. You never know who you know, that may have someone in need of warnings. So when extreme weather strikes, do what you can to warn others. Even though the local news had been publishing warnings about the coming storms, those traveling through the area may have no clue. Twitter was big for this.
With the sirens still going off, the sky grew dark. The wind was howling and branches and small items from neighbors' yards began flying across our property. This was the line which ended up hitting Tupelo. After a few minutes, we could smell burning in the air and the sky became a strange red-orange color. We later learned a tornado touched down about 12 miles west of our house as it made its track north. Over the following few hours, a flood of warnings and damage reports came in from neighboring counties. A tornado hit the modest town of Louisville, MS which sent debris raining about 30 miles away. Starkville, MS reported insulation falling from the sky like snow. Debris of all types (i.e. boards, pieces of roofing, etc.) was also reported falling from the sky. Some cars were damaged by debris in areas not directly hit by a tornado. The outside edge of this line briefly brushed the county I live in, and another tornado touched downed about 8 miles to the east of us. After the damage assessment was done, we discovered roughly 11 tornadoes touched down within 30 miles of our home in every direction, ranging from EF0 to EF4.

Be aware of your physical location and surrounding areas. When warnings and bad weather approach, you need to know your proximity to other counties and basic information such as your proximity to the bad weather, North, South, East, and West. You would be surprised at the number of people that don’t know such.
Not to diminish in any way whatsoever the deaths from this outbreak, considering the damage and the number of homes hit, it was only by God’s mercy more were not killed. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency confirmed the death of a child that had been missing in Winston County, which raised the last total to 14 in the state as a result of tornadoes and severe weather on Monday. Damage was reported in 23 counties with at least 1,201 houses destroyed or that sustained major damage with, a total of more than 2,459 families affected. In addition, preliminary assessments have shown 87 businesses were destroyed or had major damage.

Some of the news reports from the area: In Arkansas and Mississippi, the hardest hit of six states struck by the storm, there have been 27 confirmed storm-related deaths and more than 200 people injured as tornadoes reduced homes to splinters, snapped trees like twigs and sent trucks flying through the air like toys.

"People were running around screaming, trying to find their kids. There was nothing left," Melba Reed said as she described the aftermath of a tornado in Louisville, Mississippi (a town of about 7,000 in the central part of the state).
The tornado that ripped through Mississippi's Winston County on Monday packed winds of up to 200 mph (322 kph), according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
LOUISVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Ruth Bennett died clutching the last child left at her day care center as a tornado wiped the building off its foundation. A firefighter who came upon the body gently pulled the toddler from her arms.
"It makes you just take a breath now," said next-door neighbor Kenneth Billingsley, who witnessed the scene at what was left of Ruth's Child Care Center in this logging town of 6,600. "It makes you pay attention to life."
Bennett, 53, was among at least 35 people killed in a two-day outbreak of twisters and other violent weather that pulverized homes from the Midwest to the Deep South. The child, whose name was not released, was alive when she was pulled from Bennett's arms and was taken to a hospital. Her condition was not known.  
Louisville was also one of the hardest-hit areas, with officials reporting at least nine dead in and around town because of a powerful tornado with a preliminary rating of EF4, just shy of the top of the scale.

When WCBI asked Winston County Coroner, Scott Gregory if he could determine the cause of deaths, he couldn’t say. He stated he’d never seen anything like this.
“Some were found in the rubble. Under 2X4′s, under roofs, under walls. Some were blown out into open areas or what used to be an open area. Just a different location.”
WCBI also learned two of the victims were found approximately 1/2 mile away from their residence.
On Eiland Avenue, a day care center is destroyed but not before an infant and a toddler are snatched from the rubble to safety. “They were in the bathroom in the tub and when the house shifted, the tub went up and the caregiver lost the baby out of their arms. And when everything stopped, he found the baby and he just figured out that the others were okay. And he left walking with the baby after he found it to try to get to the doctor. Two babies still alive caregiver still alive. God is good,” said daycare provider Deborah Holmes
Winston County’s recovery efforts are being complicated by the loss of the County’s hospital. Temporary facilities have been set up at one of the hospital’s clinics on Main Street in Louisville. Medical personnel are still seeing all types of injuries. They are also helping storm victims who are having to replace prescription medication.

To read further news stories in regards to the tornado outbreak you can visit

I would like to offer a special thank you for WCBI News and their weather team. During the warning that was issued for the area where the WCBI studio is located, the weather team in their dedication, continued sending out tornado updates via phone and social media from the studio’s basement.

Growing up in the South and around tornadoes and hurricanes, I've seen many things. Pine needles stuck in trees like darts, scrap pieces of homes wedged in trees, a school bus placed atop a school, vehicles mangled as if they had been in a crusher. During Hurricane Katrina I saw the depravity of man and from the 2011 Outbreak and this tornado, God’s grace, mercy, love and the kindness and compassion of others. The town I was in post Katrina, I witnessed a man pull a gun on someone else for breaking into a gas line, National Guardsmen armed with M-16’s guarding bags of ice and doing crowd control at the distribution trucks. They were there because several people were robbed or stabbed over ice and gasoline. During the 2011 Super Tornado Outbreak, I saw a community put others first. People would go house to house asking their neighbors if they needed anything, if trees were down in yards, they were cleaned up by strangers donating their time and resources to helping others. In 40 plus years of living in the South and hearing stories about tornadoes and hurricanes, there is one thing I’ve never seen or heard. Someone climbing out from under rubble saying, Thank you evolution, thank you atheists or thank you science for saving me. They say thank you God, or it was a miracle we were saved or we were blessed to be spared. Times like that, no matter how hardened or depraved, a man knows he is nothing and that their survival is entirely by God’s mercy. God’s truth written on their hearts comes to reality for most. He is the Creator and as such is in control of everything that transpires on Earth.

How one Christian Family prepared
We prayed the night before for protection for our family and friends, for God’s mercy and for salvation to be granted to those around us. My co-labors in ministry, Michael Coughlin,
Chris Hohnholz and Tony Miano prayed for us as well. My family is grateful to all those that kept us in their prayers.  During that Monday with every touchdown reported, it left us with mixed emotions and with mixed prayers. While being thankful and grateful to the Lord for sparing us, we couldn't help but wonder and pray for those that were struck by the tornado. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of being so glad it didn't happen to us yet feelings of such remorse and worry for those it did directly impact. Throughout the day we continued to beg for mercy, blessing, redemption and protection for everyone in the affected areas and that God would be lauded in the tornadoes. That night after the all clear was sounded by the local news, we read and gave thanks to the Lord for His grace to our family and friends. We asked a special prayer to the Lord for those that were hurting and suffering due to the touchdowns and gave a word of thanks for the weather crew at WCBI. We ended by gathering together as a family and read out loud Psalm 100:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

And Psalm 46: 
God is our refuge and strength,a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;

When most people think of tornado prone areas Mississippi is one of the least thought of states, but in fact, historically it’s one of the most active in Tornado Alley. Please continue to keep the relief efforts in your prayers. There is one thing that you need to take away from reading this. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. You may not live where tornadoes are a common occurrence, but you would be hard pressed to find any location on Earth that does not experience some type of dangerous weather. You know God lives because He has written His truths on your heart. If you were to be taken to Eternity 11 minutes after reading this, where would you live? Heaven is real, Hell is real. It doesn't matter whether you believe this or not, the only thing that matters is whether or not what you believe is true. God's word is absolute truth.

Jesus Christ is Lord!
He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He was with the Father in and at Creation. All things—all things—were created by Him, and through Him, and for Him. Nothing has ever been made that was not made by Jesus Christ. He is the sinless Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who will judge both the living and the dead. He is King of kings and Lord of Lords. He alone is sovereign over all things.

He owns every person, just as He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and it matters not if, at present, the person is in wanton rebellion against Jesus Christ or one of His born-again, beloved children. Jesus owns it all. Jesus owns us and all we have. God is. God is one. God is Three in One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—One God in Three Persons—the Triune One—the Trinity—God. And this God, for there is only one God, is the God before whom every person will one day stand to give an account for their lives. Because God alone is truly and perfectly good, He will judge each person according to the perfect moral standard He has written on every human heart.

Every person reading this knows that it is a sin to lie because they know God is Truth. You know it is wrong to harbor bitterness, resentment, and hatred in their heart toward another person because they know God is love. You know it is wrong to fornicate (to engage sexually with a man or a woman outside the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman). You know it is wrong to look and think with lust. You know it is wrong to commit adultery. You know it is wrong to engage in homosexuality, lesbianism, or whatever other kind of sexual depravity because you recognize God is Faithful. You know it is wrong to take the name of the Lord your God in vain, to bring his name down low and use it as an adjectival term of excitement, anger, sorrow, or fear, because you know God is Holy.

For the above reasons, and others, everyone who stands before God to give an account will do so without excuse. No one will be able to claim innocence or ignorance of breaking God’s law—whether in thought, word, or deed. Because God is good, because He is holy, righteous and just, He must punish sin. The punishment God has ascribed for sin, all sin, is eternity in Hell. It matters not whether you, the reader, believe this. What matters is that it is true. Truth is not determined by what one believes. God is truth, though every soul is found to be a liar. Truth is that which comports to reality, and any attempt to live life apart from the reality of God is to live a life of chaos, absurdity, arrogant denial, and sin. This same God—again, for there is only one God—who is angry with the wicked every day, whose wrath abides upon the ungodly, who will judge the world in righteousness, is the same God who is loving, merciful, gracious, and kind. And He showed His great love for mankind when He sent His Son to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ—fully God and fully Man, yet without sin.

Jesus of Nazareth, born of a virgin just as the prophet Isaiah declared more than 700 years before Jesus’s literal, physical birth, lived the perfect, sinless life you cannot live. For approximately 33 years, Jesus lived a life in complete obedience to the law of God—in sentiment, word, and deed—a life you and I could not hope to hold out for a mere 33 minutes. And then He voluntarily went to the cross. Yes, it was the Jewish people who hatefully and viciously demanded Jesus’s execution.

Yes, it was the Roman government that carried out the despicable act. But they were all merely instruments in the hands of another. For it pleased God the Father to crush God the Son under the full weight and fury of His wrath against sin. God the Father made God the Son, who knew no sin, to become sin on behalf of those who repent and believe the gospel so that through the sacrifice of His Son many would be made righteous in the eyes of Almighty God. In other words, on that great and terrible day God the Father looked upon God the Son as if He had lived the depraved life of a sinner and in exchange—a great exchange—God the Father looks upon those whom He has caused to be born again, to repent and believe the gospel, as if they had lived His Son’s perfect, precious, and priceless life.

Jesus shed His innocent blood on the cross. He died a literal, physical death on the cross. And He was buried in a tomb not His own. Three days later, Jesus forever defeated sin and death when He physically, bodily rose from the grave. And unlike every false god created in the imaginations of men—whether the false gods of Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oprah-ism, or Atheism (a religion like every other spiritual “ism.”)—Jesus

Christ is alive today and He will return at a time of the Father’s choosing.

What God commands of you, the reader, is the same thing He commands of me and all people everywhere, and that’s that you repent—turn from your sin and turn toward God—and by faith alone receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

You must come to God on His terms. God does not negotiate with sinners. God will not be bribed by your religious practices or what you may perceive as “sound works” acceptable to God. God will not weigh your “good” against your “bad,” for God does not see you or anyone else as good—good in keeping with His standard of moral perfection. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If you do not read the gospel of Jesus Christ and see it for what it is, good news, it is because you love your sin more than you love God. It is because you love yourself more than you love God. It is because the love of God and the Truth of His Word is not in you. But if God causes you to be born again and extends to you the gifts of repentance and faith, which only He can give, then He will take your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. You will begin to love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. You will stop presuming upon God’s forgiveness as if it is something you have earned or deserved. Instead, you will have the confidence, assurance He has forgiven you—not on the basis of any deeds you have done in righteousness, but based entirely upon God’s mercy, grace, and love. And why would God allow His one and only Son to die a sinner’s death He did not deserve in order to take upon Himself the punishment sinners rightly deserve for their sins against God, so that sinners could be forgiven and saved? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

May all who read this who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior repent and believe the gospel while God has given them time.

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