Thanks to our generous donors, ARDF has raised over $122,000 on behalf of Tornado victims in Oklahoma. These funds are being disbursed through the ACNA International Diocese to a local Anglican parish and are being used to provide immediate relief to those affected, rebuild homes, repair church buildings, and reach out to the local community with spiritual healing.
“It is truly overwhelming and humbling that people care so much,” said Fr. Tere Wilson who is overseeing the disaster response being implemented by ARDF in cooperation with the ACNA.
He expressed his profound gratitude to the many churches and individual donors who have given so generously to those affected by the devastating tornado which tore through parts of Moore, Oklahoma on May 20th. A date which happened to be just one week after he became rector of St. James Anglican Church, Oklahoma City (now Christ our Redeemer Anglican Church) located about a half mile to the west of Moore.
For Fr. Tere, the last two months have been a blur activity: coordinating the relief effort, caring for his parishioners, and reaching out to local residents. Yet throughout, God has remained faithful, and even used this terrible event to strengthen the church and provide opportunities for this small congregation to show love to their neighbors and wider community.
However, whatever redemption has now come was birthed first from incomprehensible tragedy. The toll was shocking: 24 people were killed, including 7 children at the Plaza Tower Elementary school, and over 375 were injured. As the 1.3 mile wide tornado ground slowly over a 17 mile path it smashed 1,150 homes and caused around $2 billion in damages. The tornado was designated an EF5, the severest possible rating on the official Enhanced Fujita scale which measures wind speed and destruction.
Even for those who did not suffer injury and property damage, the experience was terrifying. “Literally all hell broke loose,” said Fr. Wilson. “I was trying to get home to be with my wife. We knew it was coming, but when I got to I-35 they wouldn’t let us go any further, so I just sat and watched the Tornado go through Moore. You knew something major was happening. It was so huge…You can’t believe something that big is staying on the ground.”
For those who were directly affected, the experience was even worse. “People have nothing. No sheets. No towels. No kitchen stuff…That is going to be part of our ministry, to reach out in lots of little necessities,” Fr. Wilson continued.
Fr. Wilson’s church, which is part of the International Diocese of the ACNA under Bishop Bill Atwood, is carefully directing funds to the areas of greatest need to make sure all donations are used as effectively as possible. ARDF will continue to monitor the progress of the relief effort and provide updates to donors.
The Beginning of Hope:
Spiritual healing is an important component of this relief effort as residents continue to deal with the shock and trauma. Christ our Redeemer will be organizing an Alpha course focused on those affected by the tornado that will provide a space to express questions about why God allows such tragedy and suffering.
Fr. Wilson explains the idea as a way to reach people holistically: “We’re going to let people know that we’re working on their physical healing, but also talk about healing them as whole people.” He does not claim to have all the answers to these questions, but it is important to provide a space to bring them before God, Fr. Wilson says.
Tragedy Turned to Transformation:
As the shock wears off, the congregation is beginning to see God’s grace at work, despite the tornado’s destruction. The small congregation has been transformed into a missional church dedicated to serving its community.
When another tornado came through town a week later, the church housed over 200 people who were trapped in their cars in the tornado’s path. Without a storm shelter, all they could offer was the church building itself and the comfort of prayer. “We told them ‘all we have is Jesus,’ but we believe in him.”
Inside the darkened and storm battered church they comforted and prayed for frightened travelers for two and a half hours before the storm abated, and through that experience a new ministry has been born. From now on, Fr. Wilson says, “when we get a storm warning we’ll go to the church a make sure it’s open for people.”
Thanks to ARDF’s generous donors the congregation of Christ our Redeemer is beginning to feel excitement–more than even before the tragedy–about what they can do to reach their community. “With the kind of money ARDF has raised, we will be able to do big things, things that show up and affect people’s lives. That part is really exciting.”
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