14 tornadoes hit North Texas.
650 families are displaced from their homes.
God’s grace: No one was killed.
A tornado barreled near a home in the Royse City area April 3, a day North Texans won’t forget. - Debbie Mechling
It wasn't the way the Rev. Marji Bishir expected to spend Good Friday, but as assistant director of Missional Outreach for the North Texas Conference, she was directing the NTC Early Response Teams as they set
up at Lancaster High School to assist tornado victims.
Lancaster was one of the North Texas cities that suffered heavy damage when, the National Weather Service says, 14 tornadoes struck the area on April 3. In Lancaster, more than 300 buildings were damaged or destroyed. In the NTC, Forney, Royse City and Rockwall County also saw homes damaged, some of them leveled. In all, about 650 families were displaced. Miraculously, no one was killed.
Forney was one of the areas slammed by one of 14 tornadoes in April 3rd's outbreak. - National Weather Service
The NTC sprang into action, teaming with UMCOR to hand out tarps at the Donations Assistance Center at the high school. There, volunteers from groups including American Red Cross, Operation Blessing, Texas Baptist Men, Buddhists and others gathered to offer one-stop aid for the victims.
Along with handing out the tarps, provided by the Latter-day Saints, the NTC/ UMCOR group offered to help residents place the tarps on their roofs. A crew from First UMC Coppell was on standby for that task. (In fact, just after the storms struck, the team was busy covering holes to prevent further damage to Coppell homes.) By the end of the weekend, demand for tarps had outstripped supply.
The day before, as the Lancaster High School assistance center came together, Rev. Bishir said she was proud of how many ERTs showed up today from all over our conference, including Kaufman, Coppell, McKinney and Sulphur
Springs. The teams had wanted to get to work right away, but were delayed while authorities were still doing rescues, making sure structures were safe to enter and securing the stricken neighborhoods.
In the Royse City area, the tornado was powerful enough to flip and destroy a barbecue truck. - Debbie Mechling
Two churches in areas where the damage was severe, First UMC Royse City and First UMC Forney, also geared up to do what they could in the chaotic hours after the storms.
In Forney, city leaders and clergy quickly met to put a plan together. First UMC Forney already had a framework in place through an ecumenical effort called Impact My Community to arrange cleanup and debris removal, said Pastor Jeff Garrett.
“In the midst of the devastation left by the tornado in Lancaster, the presence of God is visible in the many volunteers willing to help and bring about relief to the residents who have been displaced. God’s love is always revealed in spite of any situation a person or community experiences.”
- Rev. Rick Hawkins, First UMC Lancaster
Even so, one church member provided dinner for the volunteers early on, and others helped curtail this stuff when some elderly and vulnerable homeowners were approached by aggressive contractors, possibly looters, he said. For Easter, his members baked cookies and provided Easter eggs for a hunt in the ravaged Diamond Creek neighborhood.
At First UMC Royse City, two adult cleanup crews were being organized to help residents, and a group of youth planned to go out Monday to remove debris, said Pastor Ann Willet.
A team from First UMC Coppell places a tarp on a house in Lancaster. - North Texas Conference
Her church provided dinner for about 100 volunteers two days after the tornado and was working through the school district to find families needing clothing or other aid. “Everybody knows somebody” whose home was damaged, she said.
Both Rev. Garrett and Rev. Willet praised efforts to collect donations for gift cards to help victims restore their households. Creekwood UMC in Allen was leading a drive for Wal-Mart gift cards, Rev. Willet said.
The response by other North Texas Conference churches to help shows “the blessing of the connection,” Rev. Willet said.