Church Responds Following Devastating Tornadoes
Contributed By By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
More than 100 tornadoes touched down across 12 U.S. states over a recent four-day period, claiming dozens of lives and destroying thousands of homes.
No LDS members or missionaries were harmed, although three member homes in Indiana were destroyed and at least 15 others were seriously damaged. No Church buildings were impacted.
The historic storm system, which occurred between February 29 and March 3, is being blamed for what is believed to be the largest outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded in the month of March. The storm activity also caused flooding in several states.
The catastrophic weather cut a swath through the American South and Midwest, with tornado activity confirmed in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.
Church members have responded throughout “Tornado Alley” and other storm-hit regions, offering donations and organizing work groups to assist with the cleanup. Local priesthood leaders in impacted areas were working with civil authorities and welfare officials at Church headquarters to coordinate relief efforts and work projects. The Church also assisted affected communities by providing hygiene kits, generators, cleaning kits, and other basic supplies.
The New Albany Indiana Stake was hit especially hard by the recent tornadoes. Members there spent the weekend of March 3–4 working in areas throughout the stake assisting members and their neighbors in need.
“The bishops and elders quorum presidents asked for help in their wards, and about 500 members responded,” said President David Fielding, first counselor in the New Albany stake presidency. “We had a good work group.”
On Sunday, March 4, hundreds of members from wards and branches in the stake held brief Sabbath sacrament services before changing into work clothes and traveling to areas in need. Most of the stake members were dispatched to storm-weary Indiana communities such as New Pekin and Charlestown. The members spent the day cutting down trees, clearing debris, discarding trash and offering to perform whatever tasks were needed in the aftermath of the storms.
The members found pleasure in service, but hearts were also heavy as they surveyed the destruction and spoke with residents who had been hit hard. “It was disheartening to see that damage,” said President Fielding, who noted that the tornadoes seemed to arbitrarily destroy one house while leaving a neighboring home unscathed.
“One home that my husband and I worked at was literally torn in half,” said Kathee Johnson of the Madison Ward, New Albany Indiana Stake.
Sister Johnson said the work project offered members an opportunity to serve neighbors and provide Christian assistance. New friends have also been made in the aftermath of the disaster. One female investigator attended Sunday Church services for the first time during the abbreviated sacrament meeting. The woman was impressed with the members’ desire to help, so she joined the volunteer work crew and spent the day laboring shoulder-to-shoulder with the members.
Members in the region impacted by the historic storms hope the worst is behind them. But the possibility of further trouble still looms. The traditional four-month hurricane season has just begun.