You don’t live in places like Oklahoma and Arkansas without being affected by or knowing someone who has been directly affected by a tornado. As we enter May, typically the most tornado prone month of the year, the day after a Sunday that held some killer tornados in Quapaw, OK, and Mayflower and Vilonia, Arkansas, it deserves our faithful consideration. As of the time this is being written, it looks as though the tornado that ripped through Mayflower and Vilonia caused at least 16 deaths. Much like Moore, OK, Vilonia had just recovered from a devastating tornado in 2011 and now has suffered another. I watched an interview on the news with a young minister of a church which was meeting at the time the tornado hit Vilonia, and he spoke of going outside and seeing the tornado bearing down on them, and he said he simply prayed to God “Okay, Lord, I’m ready to go,” but the church withstood the storm. I marvel at that kind of perspective, perhaps because I can’t imagine having it. I hope if I am ever in the path of a storm like this, I have some hidden wellspring of courage and cool-headedness, because I imagine I’d be less resigned to simply “give up the ghost.” Being at peace with things you can’t control is, I believe, a gift from God. It is one I experienced while lying on a hospital bed outside my surgery room at the end of March. Though I would have always imagined that in that situation I would be fighting the urge to jump off the hospital bed and run in the opposite direction, instead I felt a calm sense of peace that the doctors and nurses would be competent at their jobs and the surgery would leave me with the best outcomes.
One thing we do have control over is how we respond to tragedy. Though I don’t believe there’s any use in speculating and pontificating on the existential “reasons” such tragedies occur, we actually have a mandate to respond to the afflicted with care and compassion and love. I was impressed that our youth minister Danny McBee reported to the Church Council yesterday that the youth are interested in planning a summer Mission trip to help the continuing rebuilding process in Moore, OK. I thought that showed a lot of mature insight by the youth. Though tragedies continue this Spring, instead of feeling the impulse to help where the news cameras are rolling, the youth understand that they can be of assistance in places, like Moore, that continue to need help. I hope and pray for the best possible outcomes for our friends and neighbors in Quapaw and in Arkansas, and also that God strengthen us and use us as faithful servants in the response to the yearly raking of tornadoes across our region.