Devastated Okla. Town Served a 'Table of Hospitality'

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MOORE, Okla. -- Just six months ago, one of the most destructive tornadoes ever recorded leveled parts of Moore, Okla, claiming the lives of 23 people, including seven children at an elementary school.

To encourage this community, the organization known as Mercy Chefs provided a hearty Thanksgiving meal for all to enjoy this week.

The massive EF-5 tornado injured nearly 400 people. Winds recorded at an unimaginable 210 mph destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Today, a memorial of seven crosses honors the lives of the students who perished.

The two-mile-wide tornado also leveled Briarwood Elementary School. Teacher Donna Goodman hunkered down under a desk with 15 students when the twister hit.

"All of a sudden I saw daylight, and I realized the roof was coming off," Goodman told CBN News. "And then I just remember shutting my eyes really tight, holding on to the kids I could touch, and telling them it was going to be okay. We were going to make it."

This week, a hot Thanksgiving meal provided by Virginia-based Mercy Chefs and Southgate Baptist Church in Moore helped the residents of this community that's been through so much to heal.

"One of the things we hope they don't experience today is the feeling of just being in another line for a handout," Gary LeBlanc, founder and president of Mercy Chefs, told CBN News. "We want to set a table of hospitality. We want them to feel welcomed and valued. We want to serve them."

"[We want them to] forget about their problems for a while," lead chef Lynn Krause explained. "It's nice to see that expression on their faces -- when that level of anxiety leaves their face, leaves their body for a moment."

"As much as anything else, I love to see the Church be the Church," Southgate Baptist Church Pastor Doug Brewer said. "And to see people from all kinds of backgrounds, all denominations were able to come together and serve and have one directive and one motive and that is to care for people and to share, to show the love of Jesus Christ."

"We're always thankful for our families, for our homes, for the God who saved us," said Master Sgt. Steve Brackeen with the Oklahoma City Police Department. "But this year, people are going to realize what they were saved from."

"People were saved from death; people were saved from destruction. People were pulled out from rubble where they should not have survived, and it makes you more thankful for the life that you have," Brackeen said.

This Thanksgiving, survivors of the Moore, Okla., tornado share a meal prepared by generous, merciful hands and hearts.

That generosity was a genuine boost to those who have suffered great loss and are pressing on to rebuild their lives.

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Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.