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Storm Tossed Lives

By Kathryn M. Graves
Guest Writer -- I sat in front of the television on Saturday, May 5th, watching the coverage of the tornado aftermath in Greensburg, Kansas. The pictures caused me to relive memories of a similar day almost exactly eight years ago in my town of Haysville, Kansas.

It was May 3, 1999, the day a huge, F-5 storm hit Oklahoma City. The early evening had been stormy, but that’s not unusual for this time of year. My husband, Bo, had gone to a meeting at church, two miles east of our home. One of our sons lived out of town at college, and the other, Jeremy, attended a class in the neighboring town of Rose Hill.

I took advantage of the rare quiet to sit in the living room and read a novel. Hail began to fall about 8 p.m., turning the sky an ominous color I’d never seen before. Alert, but not alarmed, I headed to the basement family room and turned on the T.V.

A weather alert interrupted regular programming, so I sat down. The first reports of a large tornado in Oklahoma City were coming in and things didn’t look good. Then the weather man got a new bulletin. Concern filled his eyes as he reported a tornado on the ground south of the Wichita metro area along I-35, moving north. His next words propelled me into motion. “An official warning for Sedgwick County has not yet been issued, but if you live in Haysville, take cover now. This tornado will hit you if it continues its current path.”

I grabbed a flashlight and the cordless phone. Never having lived through a tornado before, I failed to get anything else. I wore tennis shoes, jeans and a lightweight shirt, but no jacket. Thinking back on our family discussions, I decided the safest place in the basement was the exercise room since it contained no windows. A long table ran across the back of the room for crafts projects and an old, upholstered chair sat in front of it. I crawled under the table, pulling the chair toward me for covering. I cradled the phone in my hands while listening to the T.V. I could no longer see. The last thing I heard was a tornado warning issued for Sedgwick County.              

Then the power went out. The basement pitched into blackness. That’s when I knew the storm had hit. I turned on the flashlight for comfort. Almost immediately I heard the sirens on emergency vehicles. As more and more sirens kept coming and didn’t stop for probably thirty minutes, I knew it was bad. I wondered if Bo was safe. I hoped Jeremy was alright and glad he was not in Haysville.            

By the next day, the picture emerged. The tornado had roared between our house and the church, leaving five people dead, destroying most of the businesses in town and a large number of homes. It continued into Wichita, where it killed three more, leveling a path half a mile wide. It was later labeled an F-4.

The recent weekend of tornadoes in Kansas, floods in Missouri, and wildfires on both coasts, combined with my memories of the Haysville tornado, turned my thoughts to the stormy nature of our lives. We are not immune to trouble and sorrow.            

John 16:33 says,

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

No matter what happens to us, Jesus is there to go through it with us. He remains in charge, even if it doesn’t seem like it. He still loves us, even when we feel abandoned. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:35-39 that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God. Whether the storms and dangers we face are physical, emotional or spiritual, we can rest in knowing Who is in control.                  

My family and our town were forever changed by the storm. Moving on was a long and often painful process, but we can look back and see the hand of God at work. He has indeed overcome the world.

Kathryn M. Graves and her husband live in Kansas where he is a pastor. She has a B.A. in Psychology and has written pre-sermon sketches, articles for the Kansas/Nebraska Baptist Digest, and a story in the book When God Steps In: True Stories of Transformation by God’s Grace. Kathryn loves cats, teaching Bible studies, flower gardening, and vacations at the lake.

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