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Prayer service remembers victims of last week’s tornadoes

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
May 28, 2013

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As Moore, Shawnee, and so many other communities affected by last week’s tornadoes still pick up what’s left, about 25-hundred joined in song and prayer at the First Baptist Church in Moore on Sunday. Governor Fallin’s interfaith service featured readings from Scripture, and an especially striking survival story from a first grade teacher…

Music echoed throughout the church – organizers put together the Oklahoma Strong Community Choir with members from all areas affected by the tornadoes last Sunday and Monday.

Rabbi Vered Harris, Archbishop Paul Coakley, and Pastor Clarkson from First Baptist all offered their blessings for the service. It had largely followed the usual path for a memorial  service, until Governor Fallin introduced Briarwood first grade teacher Waynel Mayes. Before she could get to the podium though, a more than two minute standing ovation came for her students, as they filed in. Then, Waynel shared her story…

“And soon one of my children asked if we could sing Jesus Loves Me. This did not surprise me, as my children frequently came on Monday mornings telling them their memory verses from Sunday school and singing songs they had learned in church. I knew they would be comforted, as I would.”

She had put together a fortress of desks to protect her children, and they had started singing songs, everything from the Star Spangled Banner to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. As the tornado approached, they continued to sing, to make it through.

“And then someone said ‘Hello’ and they started banging the desk and calling ‘We’re here, we’re here’ in the loudest voices you had ever heard. A man was able to move some of the debris and create a hole big enough for us to get out. And when all of us were out, I saw the parents and people from the community had rushed to our school to get us out.”

Waynel Mayes said there’s a lot of uncertainty ahead for the community of Moore, but said faith remains a constant for her.

Outside, after the service, there was Todd Osborne. He had come down from Wisconsin just to help out, planning to stay for a couple days…

“I’m not a very religious man, I struggle with faith. It’s a character flaw. But I enjoyed it, it’s uplifted. And I really enjoyed seeing the kids from Briarwood. That chokes you up, that gets your eyes kinda glossy.”

For Rob Clark, a high school teacher in Moore, what he heard was a common refrain.

“They’re still kids. And they’re ours. And their parents put them in our hands. And we make sure we take care of them.”

As the service came to an end, Governor Fallin left visitors with one thought…

“Our strength does not come from our possessions, but our strength is the kind of strength that matters. It’s the strength of the spirit of Oklahoma that is alive and well in our state.”

Just steps away, in the First Baptist Church parking lot, nonprofits had set up shop to cook hot meals, walk survivors through the daunting cleanup process, and more. Intentional or not, it served as a reminder that lives are just beginning to be put back together.

One Response to “Prayer service remembers victims of last week’s tornadoes”

  1. Kevin Dunn says:

    Never underestimate the power of faith. My mother-in-law said that she never had a prayer answered so fast as when fire was threatening her house last summer and a storm blew up to put it out before the fire reached her house.
    BTW, KOSU is a real treasure, thanks Ben.

    Kevin Dunn, Lake McAlester, OK

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