Monday, May 30, 2011

Blendville Christian Church meets across street from tornado-stricken building

The tornado that hit Joplin and destroyed their building did not stop Blendville Christian Church parishioners from holding Sunday services, as detailed in today's New York Times:

There were other, less noted services throughout the day. At the Blendville Christian Church, where 30 parishioners survived the storm, the sanctuary was mostly gone, save for the back wall where the thin metal cross above the baptistery shone under the sun. Hymnals and the remains of pews poked out of the debris. Services were held across the street this Sunday.

“Yeah it’s a tent, yeah it’s on the parking lot,” said Ron Neidert, 55, a ranch manager and congregation leader who helped with the setup. “It’s church. It’s worshiping God.”

As congregation members arrived carrying finger-worn Bibles, they embraced, exclaiming the now common refrain that would seem absurd in better times: “I’m so glad you’re alive.” One member of the congregation of 160 was killed and two dozen others, including the pastor, lost their homes.

For many it was an experience that brought their own faith into sharp relief. One man said the tornado also swept away the walls that had kept him from fully embracing God. Another listened to the service from afar, sitting on a freshly sawed tree stump, trying to make sense what role God played in all this. Some spoke of their own miracles that kept them alive.

“How many of you have prayed this week?” asked Virgil Eubanks, 60, the pastor.

A chorus of hands shot up. “Oh yeah,” he continued. “If this didn’t catch you up on your prayer life there’s something wrong with you.”

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