The sky was clear with a hue of blue and those white fluffy clouds as we headed to church Sunday evening, April 27th. A severe thunderstorm lurked north of us but all appeared well in the small town of Baxter Springs. Travelling east on HWY. 166, Steve's phone rang. It was our middle child, Jennifer, panicked because the tornado siren was sounding.We were unable to hear the siren, but as soon as we turned south on HWY. 69 the almost white tornado was staring at us. The game of chicken proceeded for the next five blocks as our mini-van tried to drive faster than a tornado to reach safety. As we pulled in the church parking lot, Steve yelled to our youngest daughter, "Leslie, get inside!" Then he turned to me and said, "Jena, get out!" I had no idea we had made it to the church nor where we were. All I knew was I opened my door and grabbed my cane as Steve pulled me and knocked me onto the ground next to the building and laid on top of me. We prayed.Steve and Leslie not only watched the approaching tornado from our vehicle, but they witnessed flying debris as we were trying to reach safety. In fact, Steve said there were boards flying at my head. At least that's the story he uses for his reason of knocking my feet out from underneath me. Hey, everyone needs humor after processing near death experiences.The tornado hit our church on the west side just as our daughter made it inside and we lay outside on the east side. While laying there and praying, Steve looked up to see two of our church members turn their van into the parking lot as the tornado lifted it off of all fours and an electric pole flew directly over them. Sometime during this, the tornado gave Steve and I a magic carpet ride we were totally unaware of. It moved us ten feet back out to our van.Half watching the tornado we made it to the back door of our church to check on our beloved daughter. Leslie ran out before our hands reached the doorknob and all of us instantly embraced in a family hug as tears rolled down our face and we told each other how much we loved them. Next we checked to see who all was at the church and how they were fairing.The rest of the evening became a blur as we ran down the street knocking at doors to ensure no one was trapped or hurt for nearly every house or vehicle hadn't escaped the wrath of this white tornado appearing out of a clear sky. No rain and only a two-minute siren warning. Soon church members arrived checking on who was okay and offering help. So we broke out the bottled water and sent people around to quench people's thirst. Others began heating up food, gathering generators and lights, and continuing to check on our church members and neighborhood. One thing was for sure, everyone was telling where they were, what they saw,and how much damage they did or didn't receive. From that point forward, Word in Action Ministries began responding in the only way we knew......feeding and caring. Here's a few of the ways we've responded..
1. Opened as a shelter for those who lost homes
2. Expanded our nightly meals to three times a day (fed a little over 1,000 meals per day the first week)
3. Gathered all of our drinks and snacks; passed them around the damaged zone
4. Sent volunteers out helping clean up
5. Salvation Army set up in our church Tues. for case management then sent them to us for long- term assistance (we've been partnering together throughout each stage of the aftermath)
6. Began finding housing during the first week. May help pay for materials to repair, help with utilities, volunteer labor, connect with some other resource.
7. Prepared food baskets from food donations. Passed them and hygiene kits out.
8. Set up clothing donations and baby items in front foyer of church to pass out.
Pastor Steve is telling everyone, "We're in this for the long-haul. After all, many whose houses were lost were people we've already helped through our Community Dinners. We will continue to resource out what we're able and continue to do whatever it takes to get them into a house." Filling in the gap and being there to listen, love, guide and direct is what Word in Action Ministries has been doing for five years now.