Church Members Serve Those Affected by Oklahoma Tornadoes
Church member recounts on-scene experiences
“As I turned the last corner and saw the line of cars parked on the side of the road, tears began to flow. One week earlier I stood in this exact same spot, passing out hot chicken dinners and sub sandwiches with the Salvation Army,” said Krachel Greenwood, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Wisconsin.
On Thursday, May 30, Sister Greenwood was issued deployment orders by the Salvation Army—an appointment that was originally designed to provide assistance to those affected by the May 20 tornado that touched down in Moore, Oklahoma. Forty-eight hours after the assignment was issued, she found herself on the ground in Oklahoma City.
“I was supposed to arrive on Friday, May 31, but a technical difficulty intervened and the email with my flight itinerary never arrived in my inbox,” she said.
Instead of riding out a new tornado with her Oklahoma colleagues, who were hunkered down in an office stairwell, Sister Greenwood watched on a screen in an airport terminal while waiting for the storms to pass.
“There is no doubt in my mind that for whatever reason, I was not supposed to be in Oklahoma City on May 31,” she said.
Once she did arrive, there was no time to waste.
Sister Greenwood, along with Major Tom Louden and Lt. Scott Hoover of the Salvation Army, traveled to El Reno, the place hit by the May 31 storm. They went from house to house, distributing meals and offering to pray.
“I’ll never forget standing with a young family, looking at the contents of their home strewn across a wide-open hay field. When we showed up with that hot chicken, the father told us it was the first meal he’d eaten in two days,” she said.
Throughout the week, Sister Greenwood visited other areas affected by recent tornadoes, including Plaza Towers Elementary, the place where seven children died when the May 20 tornado ripped through the community of Moore.
After eight days in Oklahoma, she took half a day off, a Sunday morning, to worship with other Latter-day Saints in the Oklahoma community. She was surprised to see people arriving in work clothes rather than their Sunday best.
Tom Louden and Scott Hoover, upper left, of the Salvation Army pause for a prayer with a family outside of their home in El Reno, Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma City 3rd and 5th Wards held a special combined sacrament meeting that day. The congregation sang “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” and a high councilor spoke on service, specifically pointing out that sometimes it’s the small and simple acts that mean the most. The 5th Ward bishop then took the stand to explain the day’s assignment:
“A local farmer needs help clearing his wheat field. His house was saved. His three barns were not. He is hoping to preserve his wheat field but needs to clear the debris from it. The ground in this area is wet. It has been raining this week. You’ll need to wear your boots. And don’t forget your gloves.”
Sister Greenwood, who had some extra time, decided to travel to the area where the members would be working.
“I wasn’t really sure where I was going, so I plugged the address into my GPS and then started to drive.”
Krachel Greenwood, a Latter-day Saint, serves with the Salvation Army and was deployed to assist following the destructive tornadoes in Oklahoma.
When she rounded that last corner and realized where she was, the sight of cars lining both sides of the road became overwhelming. The estimated crowd of 200–300 volunteers lining the farmer’s field was almost too much to handle.
“To return to the exact same spot where I was a week ago, it was just very overwhelming, very emotional,” she said.
Krachel Greenwood’s first trip to El Reno provided an opportunity to distribute food and drinks with the Salvation Army. A return trip a week later gave an inside look at how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides physical assistance when disaster hits.
“I believe our Heavenly Father has lots of ‘armies,’ ” Sister Greenwood said. “The Salvation Army provides a critical need in supplying nourishment for starving souls. But the work cannot go forward without physical assistance from other ‘armies,’ including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”