Tag: tornadoes

God in the rubble: Houses, lives lost in Texas twisters

God in the rubble: Houses, lives lost in Texas twisters

‘This world is not our home,’ says family that lost house in Texas twister.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ROWLETT, Texas — Rain poured on Mike Patterson.

The Texas church member stood by the cozy fireplace where he used to glance out the window and enjoy God’s creation.

Now, crumbled bricks, broken glass and sticky yellow insulation surrounded him as he stared directly into the dark sky.

Soaked as he picked through the remains of his family’s tornado-devastated house, the 50-year-old father of two counted his blessings.

“It’s been a very good reminder of how quickly what we view as a home here in this world can just vanish and be torn apart in 15 seconds,” said Patterson, a deacon of the Saturn Road Church of Christ in nearby Garland, Texas. “It’s been a reminder that this world is not our home, and we should be focused on what is eternal.”

Patterson, his wife, Michelle, and their sons, Blake, 21, and Cameron, 16, were celebrating the holidays with extended family in Georgia when an outbreak of tornadoes struck North Texas.

Twelve people — including Timothy Harris, a member of the Johnson Street Church of Christ in Greenville, Texas — died as the tornadoes wreaked havoc the day after Christmas.

Related stories:

•  Tornado victim lived by faith (reporting from Greenville, Texas)

After the storm, heeding Jesus’ words (reporting from Garland, Texas)

These stories appear in the February 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

After the tornado, Oklahoma church sings God’s praises

After the tornado, Oklahoma church sings God’s praises

First Place (with Erik Tryggestad, Ted Parks and Murray Evans), In-Depth Reporting, Associated Church Press

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

MOORE, Okla. — Tears.


Emotional recountings of survival and loss.

In the wake of a disaster such as the May 20 tornado that devastated this Oklahoma City suburb, the casual hellos and handshakes of a typical Sunday give way to deeper, more intimate communication — in body language, if not words.

“How are you?” an older woman asks a fellow member of the Central Church of Christ, as the two share a tender embrace.

“I’m good,” the sister in Christ replies and repeats, “I’m good.”

“It didn’t hit you?”

“I didn’t have any damage.”

“Oh, good.”

The holy chatter of 150 similar conversations fills the church auditorium.

Texas tornado ‘blew in a 2-foot layer of love’: Churches in two storm-battered communities become hubs for disaster relief (reporting from Cleburne, Texas). Page 1.

Religious freedom in public schools: Yes, it’s constitutional to teach the Bible during the school day (reporting from Simpsonville, S.C.). With sidebar: Christian education program takes director back to her roots (reporting from Greenville, S.C.). Second Front.

‘God’s been good’ to New York church: Diverse congregation celebrates the purchase of its first permanent building after leasing a hotel ballroom for years (reporting from Middletown, N.Y.). National.

This post highlights my stories in the July 2013 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

How the ‘faith-based FEMA’ are helping Moore move on

How the ‘faith-based FEMA’ are helping Moore move on

How the ‘Faith-Based FEMA’ Are Helping Moore Move On

As President Obama pledges recovery, Christian volunteers aid Oklahoma tornado victims based on what each denomination does best (reporting from Moore, Okla.). Christianity Today story published online May 26.

MOORE, Okla. — At the edge of the disaster zone—just across the street from the decimated Moore Medical Center—teens and adults in cowboy hats cook smoked sausages outside the Central Church of Christ.

This group of volunteers drove 430 miles from Denver City, Texas, southwest of Lubbock, to prepare meals for victims after last Monday’s EF5 tornado destroyed 1,200 homes and killed 24 people, including 10 children.

Inside the church, worshipers—many wearing bright orange “Disaster Assistance” T-shirts—at the Sunday service maneuver around ceiling-high stacks of emergency food and supply boxes delivered on a tractor-trailer by Nashville, Tennessee-based Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort Inc.

The church’s marquee sign along Interstate 35 normally grabs drivers’ attention with catchy Bible verses and witty sayings.

But now it declares simply: “Disaster Relief Center.”

Even as President Barack Obama consoles victims and promises the government’s assistance “every step of the way,” the so-called “faith-based FEMA” is already out in force—from Mennonite Disaster Service chainsaw crews to Samaritan’s Purse debris cleanup teams to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance pastoral counselors.

In tornado-ravaged South, stories of hope emerge

‘Dear Lord,’ please help us: In tornado-ravaged South, stories of hope emerge as churches, ministries launch disaster relief efforts (with Jeremy D. Smith, reporting from Tuscaloosa, Ala.). Page 1 lead.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Moments before a tornado wiped out the Central Church of Christ building, six students huddled in a small cinderblock closet at the church.

Carl Naylor started to pray, but he managed just two words before the twister came.

“By the time he said ‘Dear Lord,’ our ears started popping, and hairs stood up on our arms,” said Caleb Durden, a Central member whose brother, Trae, serves as campus minister. “Glass was hitting us in the head. Debris. We had glass and rust and just pieces of metal in our hair.”

The students — all active with the Tide 4 Christ campus ministry — couldn’t hear anything as the storm drowned out the heavenly plea of Naylor, whose home congregation is the Forrest Park Church of Christ in Valdosta, Ga.

“The old saying is, ‘A tornado sounds like a freight train,’” said Andrew Broadfoot, who calls the Beltline Church of Christ in Decatur, Ala., home. “Well, it almost sounded like 10 freight trains. We were lucky that that room held.”

After about 15 to 20 seconds, the noise quieted.

Walk in the cemetery provides odd comfort (column from Cedar Grove, Tenn.). Inside Story.

Universities face pressure over gay, lesbian students. Second Front.

LTC, L2L and lots of blessings. Editorial.

Avis Duncan: ‘God had a purpose for us’

Avis Duncan: ‘God had a purpose for us’

‘God had a purpose for us’

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr.


LENGTH: 1087 words


Her voice choked with emotion, Avis Duncan shut her eyes tightly, trying to keep a storm of tears from raging.

The Fifth Street Church of Christ member was talking about the green ceramic squirrel that lives on her living-room table.

A smile on its face, the squirrel stands not 3 inches tall.

It cost only a quarter.

Yet, it tells the story of this 72-year-old Woodward native’s life.

“It’s OK if you cry,” said her son, David, 33. He joked, “It’ll make it a better story.”

The dime-store trinket, bought in Enid in August 1946 as Raymond and Avis Duncan celebrated their honeymoon, conjures so many memories. So many laughs. So many tears.

Continue reading “Avis Duncan: ‘God had a purpose for us’”

‘They Were in the House That’s Gone’ Victims, Volunteers Flood Area Medical Centers

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
May 4, 1999, Tuesday CITY EDITION
‘They Were in the House That’s Gone’ Victims, Volunteers Flood Area Medical Centers

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Melissa Nelson, Staff Writers


LENGTH: 873 words

Outside Hillcrest Medical Center, sirens wailed as ambulances
kept arriving Monday night.

Frazzled medical workers helped old men and women, heads and
knees covered with bandages, into wheelchairs. Nurses and doctors
rolled bloodied babies and young children inside on stretchers.

As the television boomed with reports of deadly tornadoes, Tony
Lawson sat in the emergency room – sweat and shock covering his

“Luckily, it just went over our house, but it took our
daughter’s house,” Lawson, 39, said.

Lawson found his daughter, grandson and a friend amid the
remains of their destroyed home. He rushed them to the hospital and
wasn’t sure how badly they were injured.

“All I know is they were in the house that’s gone,” he said.

The scene was repeated Monday night at hospitals throughout the
Oklahoma City area. At least nine were confirmed dead by hospitals,
and more than 350 patients were treated.

Continue reading “‘They Were in the House That’s Gone’ Victims, Volunteers Flood Area Medical Centers”