Oklahoma Tornado: For one church, it pays to be prepared

In January 2013, the Rev. D.A. Bennett, senior pastor at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, felt convinced he and his church should go through training to be a designated Red Cross emergency shelter. He believed that God was leading them to go through the training, but no amount of training could prepare them for this.

On May 20 a tornado started two miles from their church and made its way toward nearby Moore, Okla.

When they heard the advisory for a severe storm, they waited for the Red Cross to contact them to see if their facilities would be needed as a shelter.

A Red Cross emergency shelter provides some of the most basic needs: a place to sleep, a place to shower, and medical attention. When St. Andrew’s was put on alert, they prepared space for the Red Cross to set up cots and a nursing service for such basic needs.

In the meantime, the local news stations began to list designated shelters for the tornado victims. St Andrew’s was one of the many that were listed. Unfortunately, news outlets also mistakenly listed the church as a donation center, and the American Red Cross does not accept donations at their emergency shelters. The expected response was to turn people away with their donations and not accept them, but “as a church,” Bennett says, “St. Andrew’s does not turn people away.”

St. Andrew’s happily collected various donations. Soon, the word got out that the church was a collection and distribution center as well as a Red Cross shelter.

“Since then, truckload after truckload of supplies have come in,” says Kim McKinley, the church’s communications director. “If we run out of something, say shovels, we put that out on social media and immediately people start bringing it, so that’s been a blessing. The whole community has really gotten together and worked really hard to get things back to the way we need to be.”

Later, the government rescued the trapped Southmoore High School students. Many families were forced to separate with their loved ones, because of the devastating tornado. Locations for reunions between families and friends are vital. The location for the Southmoore High School anticipated reunion was St. Andrew’s.

For Bennett, this was a great relief because his oldest son is a student of Southmoore High. The pastor was unable to get to his son after the tornado has diminished. When notified that they were using St. Andrew’s as the designated location, Bennett said his heart “skipped a beat and became overjoyed.”

God had prepared their church for this time and place.

 

UMNS Audio: D.A. Bennett: “God had us prepared, God has provided.”

Flickr slideshow by UMNS photographer Mike DuBose


Like what you're reading?  United Methodist Communications is celebrating 80 years of ministry! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community.  Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
Racism
The Rev. Reginald E. Lee. Photo courtesy of the South Carolina Conference.

A birthday letter to Martin Luther King Jr.

On the occasion of the 92nd birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Reginald Lee, pastor of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, penned a birthday letter to the civil rights icon.
Racism
M. Garlinda Burton. Photo courtesy of M. Garlinda Burton.

The content of our character

Leading into Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Religion and Race top executive calls for the church to address its institutional racism.
General Church
Custodian James Jimmerson disinfects pews to prevent any possible spread of the coronavirus at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday, May 10, 2020, following online worship, which is recorded in the sanctuary. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

2020: The year in UM News photos

The year 2020 was an eventful and difficult one for the church. Photographers from UM News documented a year in the life of United Methodism worldwide.