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United Methodists respond to tornado damages

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A Web-only photo by Art McClanahan

Homes in Woodward, Iowa, show the effects of a Nov. 12 tornado.
Nov. 18, 2005

By United Methodist News Service*

United Methodists in parts of the South and Midwest are providing relief and other support in their communities after a series of tornadoes swept through their areas in early and mid-November.

On Nov. 16 alone, some 35 tornadoes struck parts of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee, leaving at least two people dead.

In Madisonville, Ky., where about 120 homes were destroyed and many more damaged, local churches were working together to help survivors. Disaster News Network reported that both Parkview United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church were serving meals to anyone in need and offering prayer meetings to those who ask.

“We have a lot of people in the community who are still in a state of shock,” said the Rev. Shane Browning, pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church and associate pastor at First United Methodist Church. “To see their community wiped away in a matter of seconds is a bit overwhelming.”

The storms were the latest in a wave that swept through the region. On Nov. 6, a tornado left 23 dead in the Evansville, Ind., area. Epworth United Methodist Church in Newburgh, Ind., turned its fellowship hall into a relief center and provided meals, water and clothes to people in affected neighborhoods.

Six days later, tornadoes caused one death in Iowa and destroyed homes. In Woodward, as many as five families lost their homes and others will require extensive rebuilding, according to the Rev. Ben Carter-Allen, pastor of Woodward United Methodist Church. His church and others were reaching out to help survivors.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A Web-only photo by Art McClanahan

A tornado shattered the windows of this home in Stratford, Iowa.
Homes in a several square block swath near the Calvary United Methodist Church, in Stratford, Iowa, were also devastated.

Tornadoes spawned by the Nov. 16 storm front storms caused the deaths of a teenager in Indianapolis and a man in Benton, Ky.

Dozens of homes in northwest Tennessee were destroyed. The staff at First United Methodist Church in Paris rode out the storm in a lower level of the building.

“We could see the funnel cloud approaching from the west, about one-quarter mile away from our position,” the Rev. Joe Geary wrote in an e-mail to the Memphis Annual (regional) Conference communicator. “It was a frightening experience.”

After the storms, First Church and others began responding to needs in their communities. The impact included major damage to three homes of First Church members.

In western Kentucky, Benton First United Methodist Church was serving as a clearinghouse for volunteer efforts. Nearby Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church was being used as a staging area and command center by emergency response teams from the surrounding area.

Several homes around the church were destroyed and many more suffered extensive damage, according to the Rev. Bill Lawson, pastor. Several people were hospitalized, and many residents were being asked to evacuate to nearby shelters.

“With all the bewildering damage immediately surrounding the church, the church itself sustained very little damage,” Lawson reported. “The steeple is gone, a kitchen window was blown in, and the road sign was blown out.”

Prayers would be appreciated, he said. “We are very grateful for the lives that were spared in homes that suffered such complete destruction.”

*Communicators Cathy Farmer, Memphis Annual (regional) Conference, and Art McClanahan, Iowa Conference, contributed information for this report.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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