Parkersburg is a beautiful and peaceful town of 1900 residents in Iowa. Back in 2003, I visited that community for several weeks. I had the privilege of meeting many residents as I visited in their homes and met them each evening at the Parkersburg Veterans’ MemorialCenter.

Even though I sustained a bite from an old Collie dog in Parkersburg, it still has a special place in my heart. I am writing this from our home in tranquil Prince Edward Island, Canada where the sun is shining and we are preparing for a beautiful summer.

Parkersburg was a tranquil and beautiful rural town in Iowa up until May 25, 2008. But the tranquility was disrupted when the weather service issued a tornado warning for Parkersburg at 4:46PM, Sunday evening. Within minutes the sirens were activated and wailed across the town for more than five minutes before the tornado mercilessly ripped through the town.

People fled to their basements.

At 5PM the F5 killer tornado slammed into Parkersburg at over 200 mph. It’s been over 30 years since Iowa has experienced an F5 tornado. Terrified people cried out: “God save me.”

“Rachel Bander Holt, 19, huddled with her family in the basement, praying, “God, please help us.”

“They say how you see your life pass before your eyes, and it’s true,” she said Monday. “You think, ‘Oh my God, am I going to die today?’ And we thought we were.”

The family walked down the street, passing neighbors in shock, their faces covered in blood.” (1)

In a small town of 1900 residents, 222 homes were completely destroyed, 21 businesses destroyed and 400+ homes were damaged. The city hall, high school and the only grocery store and gas station were demolished.

Mayor Bob Haylock said that had it not been for the sirens wailing for five minutes before the tornado struck, many more would have been injured and more lives would have been lost. Four people died in Parkersburg and two in the neighboring town of New Hartford.

The pictures show overwhelming devastation. We are praying for the people of Parkersburg, New Hartford, Hazelton and Dunkerton – especially those who lost loved ones.

This is not the early summer experience anyone would ever dream of having. It is a Category F5 nightmare.

Reflections:

  • Calm can be interrupted quickly.
  • Life is fragile – extremely so.
  • Our material collections and touchable perishables are truly perishable.
  • What we normally consider to be secure is in fact most insecure.
  • We could die today – any day.

For Iowans who are suffering and devastated by loss and millions of others in China, Burma and other places throughout the world, this is the time to personally turn to God.

What good can come out of loss and tragedy? Every person who turns to God in a crisis for spiritual healing and cleansing finds the ‘good’. The black clouds of despair turn into joy amidst the tears.

When people turn to God, they are overwhelmed to find out how much He personally loves them and what He has done for their ultimate and eternal good. God is not a cruel god reigning in the skies who delights to unleash His random fury upon innocents.

The God of the Bible is a Holy God who only does good. He loves sinners and desires to have a personal relationship with every person – none excluded. Despite our sins and our lack of interest in Him, He proved His love for us when He sent Jesus into the world to die for our sins.

For when we were yet without strength,
in due time Christ died for the ungodly…
God demonstrated His love toward us, in that,
while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

In times of crisis, people need to turn to God and discover His love and embrace His Son as their personal Saviour/Rescuer.

To lose a home or a farm, to lose a car or a livelihood is crushing and devastating. But the bottom line is – all of those things are temporal and pertain to this life but not to the hereafter. To lose one’s soul and to miss Heaven is a tragedy of infinite proportions.

When the sirens wailed people ran for safety in their basements. But now think of this from a spiritual perspective. The spiritual sirens are wailing and God wants you to flee to Him for safety. Jesus made this amazing promise: “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37.

Christ offers true security that can never be lost. Safety that can never be violated and peace and tranquility that runs deep. Will you come to Him? He will remove your sins and you will become the possessor of eternal life.

 

(1) http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080527/NEWS/805270376