By Stan Friedman
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (May 22, 2013) – One of three people killed at a 7-Eleven convenience store by Monday’s devastating tornado was a member of Westmoore Community Covenant Church, says Executive Pastor Rodney Beavers.
The EF-5 twister demolished the store in which Terri Long, 49, was killed along with a mother and child who sought shelter in the store’s freezer, according to press reports.
At least one other member – a teacher at Briarwood Elementary School – suffered injuries when a wall fell on her, Beavers said. She was treated at the hospital and released.
Pastors of Covenant churches said the homes of many members were destroyed or heavily damaged. At least 71 homes of families who attend the Oklahoma City campus of Lifechurch.tv, a Covenant congregation, were destroyed, says Ryan Motsinger, associate pastor. So far, no deaths have been reported.
The church has tried to reach all 5,300 people on their attendance list, but downed telephone lines and damaged homes have made the effort difficult.
Pastors said they expect to hear of more damage done to homes and possible injuries in the coming days. Communication by phone still is difficult, and many residents also are not being allowed back into the area.
The tornado killed 24 people as it left 17 miles of destruction along a path that sometimes stretched two miles wide.
Beavers had seen the tornado and drove away from it. As it turned out the, tornado missed his house by two miles. He knows the pain being experienced by those who lost their homes. A previous tornado displaced his family after it destroyed their home.
Monday’s twister also had been headed straight at the church when it suddenly veered right about a mile away from the building, Beavers said.
His concern focused on the people of his city, however. “Monday night, I was just physically ill,” said Beavers, who like most people, thought the death toll would climb much higher. “I had to turn the TV off.”
The church, like others, is helping with relief efforts. It will host a nonprofit organization that will provide services and food to other volunteers, Beavers said. Hillcrest Covenant Church in Kansas City, Kansas, has dispatched a shower truck for the volunteers to use at the Westmoore church.
Westmoore also will hold a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Journeychurch.tv is serving as a shelter for many families who have been displaced, with all of the Lifechurch.tv campuses assisting in relief efforts. On Tuesday, they coordinated more than 400 individuals across the six campuses to help collect material at each site and point people to the Feed the Children and Salvation Army operations, Motsinger said. However, state officials have asked that would-be volunteers not rush to the scene unless requested.
“The church is committed to working collaboratively with other organizations as we try to see where we fit into the bigger picture within the community,” Motsinger said. Before this, we created incredible relationships with key relief organizations throughout the metro area, including United Way, Salvation Army, Red Cross, the Department of Emergency Management, and others.”
Convoy of Hope is using the Oklahoma City south campus as a command center. Each of the metro campuses is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the duration of this week and weekend, and possibly into next week, Motsinger said. Volunteers are staffing the sites in three-hour shifts.
Covenant World Relief is collecting funds that will be distributed through the Midsouth Conference and local congregations. Covenanters can donate online.