By Stan Friedman
MOORE, OK (May 20, 2014) — Jay Stokes was surprised and saddened by the request from the family of a child who was killed by the mile-wide tornado that devastated much of the area one year ago today.
The senior executive pastor of Summit Church, a Covenant congregation, serves on the local Unmet Needs Committee. Four weeks ago the request came in for funds to pay for the child’s gravestone.
Stokes says he doesn’t know why the request wasn’t made until now, but it reflected the fact that as communities impacted seek to rebuild and heal, much remains to be done.
Stokes said funds from Covenant World Relief paid for the gravestone. Donations from Covenanters around the world, including the Hindustani Covenant Church in India, have paid for everything from diapers to rent.
The EF5 tornado killed 24 people and injured 377 others. It touched down just west of Newcastle, where Summit is located, and then left a 17-mile path of destruction, including a heavily populated section of Moore. At one point, the storm was 1.3 miles wide.
Several members of Covenant churches, including two people from Westmoore Community Covenant Church in Oklahoma City, were killed. Many other members saw their homes heavily damaged or destroyed.
Covenant congregations, along with many other churches, immediately helped with relief and cleanup. Journeychurch.tv became a major collection center that was used for several months. At one point high winds destroyed the huge tent and ruined tens of thousands of dollars of relief supplies.
“It was heartbreaking for the people receiving help. It was heartbreaking for us,” says Stokes. Volunteers were able to put up another structure within days.
The Westmoore youth group decided not to go to summer camp last year, and instead spent the week helping residents clean and search through rubble.
Although rebuilding is underway, many survivors continue to struggle economically and emotionally. Paul Cunningham, pastor of the Westmoore church, spoke Sunday about the tornado, but the staff decided not to show footage from a year ago because they were concerned it would be too hard for some people to watch.
A recent tornado warning caused more anxiety than in past years, Cunningham said. “It seems to feel a lot more raw.”
Still, Oklahomans seem determined to recover their lives. Reflecting on the past year, Midsouth Conference superintendent Garth Bolinder said, “What continues to amaze me is the remarkable courage and resilience of the people of Oklahoma City. They do not complain. They do not whine. They care for and help each other as they rebuild their lives and city.”