After the tornado: “We were spared with a purpose by God…”

A great story of charity and hope, from storm-ravaged Indiana:

From the moment a tornado tore through its community, the damaged but still-standing St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church became a crisis hub where emergency workers could dispense food, water and information.

But for a brief hour Sunday morning, the church resumed its mission as a spiritual sanctuary, as about 150 worshipers and visitors gathered for Mass, many embracing tearfully as they arrived.

With no electricity for lights or musical instruments, the congregation sang without accompaniment such standard hymns as “Amazing Grace” and “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing.”

As reports fluctuated throughout the day on the exact number of dead from Friday’s tornadoes — now 34 in Kentucky and Indiana — churchgoers throughout both states gathered to remember those killed and injured and thanked God for those spared.

The Rev. Steve Schaftlein said the parish of St. Francis Church, which sits in the center of Henryville, was “blessed” to have its building survive and now has a duty to the community.

“We were spared with a purpose by God … to be a symbol of hope and also to walk the talk,” he said. “We’re praying here, that’s our first work, but underneath is the food, the clothing that will help sustain the community in the months ahead.”

Even as he spoke, donors from the surrounding region and other states were carting in supplies to the church basement, which by late morning had become a virtual general store of food and supplies. Boxes and bags of donated clothing covered several rear pews in the sanctuary and were stacked nearly to the ceiling of the children’scry room” in back.

More rescue workers outside the church scrambled eggs and served coffee for those who needed food.

Read the rest.

There’s a terrific photo gallery and video at the site, as well.

Photo by: David Lee Hartlage/Special to the Courier-Journal


  1. jess viray says:

    …i do believe that God spared d church to give hope to your people. Your story uplifts our hearts here in the Philippines. We faced the same problem but God will not abandon us. Problems are part of our lives coz it will draw us closer to Him. Thank You Lord for being with us always especialy during these dark moments of our lives. May our simple deeds will inspire the people around us and they will come to You coz You are our only hope. Thank You Jesus….

  2. naturgesetz says:

    Assertions like this one that “God spared us” always make me a little uneasy. Unless there is clear indication of a miracle, it seems to imply that God also chose not to spare other buildings and people such as the church in Illinois that was ripped apart in the earlier tornadoes and the man who died in Henryville. Obviously, God is sovereign over the universe and can interrupt the operation of natural laws whenever he wants, but to attribute some natural occurrences to his direct intervention leads to the “Why did God kill my father” type of questions, IMO. God never abandons his people, but that doesn’t mean he’s going around protecting them from harm which falls on the non-believers.

  3. Joe mc Faul says:

    Thnaks for making this obsevation. As a person who has suffered the loss of a loved on in a freak accident with other survivors, I cannot tell you how painful it is to hear survivors exclaim that “God spared us.”

    God spared the church building but couldn’t land this little girl on some softer grass?,0,3607881.story

    I think the ways of God are too mysterious for any of us to claim that God altered the laws of nature just for us, while others weren’t so lucky.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Being sad about what is lost (and I’m sure those parishioners lost both houses and livelihoods and loved ones) doesn’t mean one is obliged to be ungrateful for what is not lost. It’s natural to be glad about what is saved, just as natural as it is to be sad for what is lost.

    God’s providence can be inscrutable. We have to try to be accepting about everything that happens, whatever way things go. Every moment we have is a gift from God; and when we die and go to Him, it will be a gift too.

    And no matter how accepting we are, we’re always going to be sad a bit for losing someone, whether people are saying “God gives” or “God takes away.” Jesus taught us to pray the Our Father, to ask for our needs and pray to be delivered from evil; but He also wept that Lazarus had died and that Martha and Mary were sad. One response doesn’t knock the other; they’re both perfectly true.

    And “whether in life or death, we are the Lord’s.” Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love; but we have to carry our crosses like Him, and die like Him, if we want to live in Him. Sorrow and relief go together like body and blood.

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