You have probably seen my son’s preschool on either the Weather Channel, NBC, Fox News, or some other national media outlet. Those are the ones I’ve seen it on. I guess that's not a bad bit of publicity for a 3-year-old.
My son, Jude attends Mt. Zion Preschool in West Paducah, Kentucky (pictured above on March 14, 2019; you can see more photos and read stories about the storm here: WPSD Local 6's news coverage). If you still aren’t familiar with this school I’ll give you a little bit more intel. It is the school/church that you’ve seen lying in ruins after being absolutely wrecked by a tornado in early March this year. It’s the one that had the roof ripped completely off of the church sanctuary while not a single Bible was moved from the back of the pews. It’s the same one that saw no serious injuries to any of the 40 children or various adult staff while the world around them literally came crashing down.
That day, I was at my hotel, in the lobby with staff and guests when the power went out. I called our energy provider and, within the hour, we were up and running. My father-in-law texted to let me know my house looked undamaged and to make sure I was okay. My wife texted and let me know that the preschool was letting out and one of us needed to go get our son. She wasn’t panicked or stressed, and neither was I—but something inside told me that I needed to be the one to get him.
After speaking with a friend who had been in the area, I had a feeling that my son’s school might be in worse shape than I previously thought, but I wasn’t anymore stressed than I had been minutes before. Several more calls came in with bits of information that raised the hair on the back of my neck, but I didn’t have the time or capacity to worry. I just had to see my boys, my son and my nephew, Dax.
About a half a mile from the school, a law enforcement official instructed me to park in a lot and walk to the school to get my son. I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me. I ran, not walked, once I realized the severity of it all. There were massive trees down everywhere, some completely uprooted, some ripped completely, not gently, in half. There was a grain bin tossed in the road that had the appearance of a Coke can that had been emptied and stepped on. There were power lines at my feet. And those were merely previews for the main attraction. The church parking lot was covered by debris. Cars had been moved from their spaces and windows were so void of glass it was as if none had ever existed in them. I looked up and noticed after getting closer that part of the roof was missing from the end of church where the preschool is located. Around me were fire trucks and rescue vehicles. There was already a news person set up with a camera and microphone.
But all of that was peripheral—I could only focus on getting inside and seeing my boys. I opened the front door and pressed into the dark, hot, heavy corridor. I passed through the chaos and wreckage, passed the various people gathered that were talking about the storm, passed other parents coming and going in the same state of mind that I was in, and I turned the corner…
There they were.
Dax and Jude were standing at a table playing with Play Doh. My nephew was, as he always is, excited to see me, bouncing like Tigger. My son, more cautious, like Pooh, glared at me with a puzzled look. “Why are you here, Daddy?” He asked with rosy red cheeks and as innocent a heart as has ever existed. EXHALE. “They’re safe,” I thought. I hugged them both tight and told them how much I loved them. I told my nephew that his mommy was on the way, that I had just spoken with her and she couldn’t wait to see him. I picked up my son, and back to the car we went. I carried him. I didn’t need to carry him, we could’ve held hands, but for those 10 minutes, I wasn’t letting him go.
The rest of my morning was filled with emotional phone calls. To my dad who had heard about the school, to my sister-in-law as she prepared to enter into the absolutely surreal scene that I was exiting, to my boss as I explained that I was coming back and my boy was okay, and to my wife as I let her know that I was bringing Jude to her so she could wrap her arms around him too. It was a day I really wasn’t prepared for, and yet, it was almost prophetic.
A couple of years ago on a site called Amos I wrote about the Widow’s Mite. The widow was a woman of such incredible faith that she gave everything she had over to God because she knew that without Him, nothing mattered anyway. I said in that article that I need to develop faith like the widow. That there would come a time that I had to drop my son off and have no control over him. That I couldn’t always be there to protect him, and that I had to be humble enough and to have enough faith to let the God that formed the universe be in control of my family. And, since then, I feel like God has helped me grow. He’s helped me build a relationship with Him. He’s shown me more than I ever dreamed.
Then, on March 14, 2019, that faith was put to the test. Don’t get me wrong. God didn’t send a tornado to test me, and that’s really the point of this post, but the tornado came. Fortunately, I have learned, little by little, to give my life over to God—to allow him to protect and provide, to guide and direct, to love, and to use, and to make something worthwhile out of this vessel. I pray protection over my son every day. Not my protection, not firearm protection, or life insurance, or any temporal thing like that. I cover my son with scripture, like Psalm 91. I apply the blood of Jesus over him. I rely on and trust in the Almighty God! Thank the Lord that I have learned that, because I cannot protect my son, not in the face of a tornado, not when I’m 10 miles away. Only God can protect him.
So, I went to social media, and my wife did to. We wanted to let the world know how great our God truly is. We wanted to let the world know that we serve a God that answers prayer and fulfills promises. We wanted to do our duty as ambassadors for Christ the King! And many others did the same. But not everyone saw our situation the way that we did. And I understand.
Unfortunately, the gospel has been misrepresented by many well-meaning Christians through the years. When unqualified people speak on a subject, they usually do more harm than good. In the Kingdom of God, we send unqualified people out to reach the world every day. Worse yet, we send people to colleges to “teach” them, and they graduate with a less-informed picture of the God of the Bible than when they got there. So we fill pulpits with unqualified people who misrepresent God. Naturally, the world is skeptical. I’ll paraphrase the negative sentiments that we saw related to the story of our children as they went something like this:
God didn’t protect your children, a safe room did. How dumb are you? And if God didn’t create the tornado and send it there, then your children would never have been in harm’s way in the first place and wouldn’t have needed the safe room. Some God you serve.
Let me first say, how much clearer a picture do we Christians need painted for us to know that we have collectively failed in our mission to go into all the world and make disciples? These people don’t even deny the existence of God, but angrily blame him for the tornado. They are angry with us for thanking God for protecting our children. They are clearly wounded—most likely from people calling themselves Christians. Sound familiar?
There was a shooting at a mosque in New Zealand last month and the perpetrators called themselves Christians. Racist acts have been committed even in this country for decades by people claiming to be Christian. How shameful.
Christ would never condone racism—see his interaction with the women at the well. Christ would never condone murder—see Matthew 5-7, and every interaction he had with the Pharisees and Saducees. Had Jesus been about murdering those with differing viewpoints He would have acted on it; He was constantly surrounded by people with different viewpoints. From the earliest age, He spoke with authority--the same authority we should have by our study, our relationship with Him, and by the Holy Spirit, our guide.
Now, let me address specifically the comments that I formed into one paraphrased thought. God is the creator of everything, and should therefore be credited with all of creation. From that standpoint, that sentiment is formed credibly, but that is the end of the truth. In saying God created everything, we have to know what that means. For example, God created the earth, the trees, the waters, the dirt, grass, rocks, minerals, cells, etc. But did God say let there be a house and my house was formed? Obviously not. God created the raw materials, blessed us with imagination and skill, and we formed the tools and used God’s creation to build a house.
So then, how does that apply to a tornado? In Ephesians 2:2, Satan is referred to as the prince of the power of the air. In John 10:10, it says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and to destroy, but I have come that you might have life more abundantly.” Jesus says that many tribulations will come in this life, but that He would remain steadfast in the face of them. Jesus himself was on a boat in the middle of a storm and commanded, "Peace be still," and the wind and rain ceased. Why would Jesus tell a storm to stop if he'd created it in the first place?
God created the universe, all universes, gravity, oxygen, carbon dioxide, wind and rain, thunder and lightning. But God isn’t actively sending storms into our lives any more than he actively built my house. Meaning tornadoes and hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, volcano eruptions and hail storms are all mis-attributed to the wrong builder. How do I know that? Because all of those things cause destruction—and Jesus told us who came to destroy. Satan was given authority over this earth when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden because God had originally given authority to them. Satan is the prince of the power of the air. Last time I checked, tornadoes are made up exclusively of extremely powerful air. I don’t know where the doctrine that God is out destroying things originated, but it is absolutely NOT Biblical. The world thinks it is because people that don't have any business teaching the Bible have misinformed them. Satan, not God, destroyed that church. Satan, not God, is responsible for the severe damage that has occurred in our area. Satan, not God, is the thief. That may not be popular to say, but we have to get out of the God-blaming business and get into the God-believing business.
Also, when winds powerful enough to fold a silo into a crushed tin can come through and rip the roof off of an entire section of building, within that building there is no such thing as a safe room. There is no structural reason why my son walked through that storm without a scratch. No contractor would say that their A+ job on the middle room of that building saved my son. Winds that rip trees in half would throw a 45-pound child from here to China. Anyone willing to say differently is lying—to you and to themselves.
In the book of Job, God is initially attributed with being a God who gives and takes away (Job 1:21). It is famously quoted as though it is somehow accurate and yet, within the same book, a figure appears to Job and corrects him. God does give, but he does NOT take away. That’s the point of the book. Satan took everything Job had—and it was a picture of what would happen if for one second God removed his protective hand from over our lives. The end of the book sees God giving Job back everything he had ever lost and more. Because ours is a living, loving God!
Fortunately for me, His protective hand was placed firmly over my son, my nephew, their friends, and their teachers. The miracle wasn’t the storm, but the fact that they were unharmed. THANK GOD! PRAISE GOD! It’s for moments like these, when the enemy sends the storm that we MUST walk by faith and not by sight. It’s in moments like these that we see God’s love abounding in our lives. It’s in moments like these when we see clearly that God is a fulfiller of His word—that He’ll do what He’s said He’ll do. But it is our job to ask—and it is our job to trust—and it is our job to believe!
I believed that God was protecting my son on March 13, 2019. The storm that came the following day only served to strengthen that belief. “If God be for me, who can be against me?” (Romans 8:31).
Kayla and I love to end all of our articles with a regular sendoff, that God’s various types of love will change the world. We do that because it is so unquestionably true. His is the greatest and most unmistakable love in all eternity. The heavens praise him! All of creation reinforces His goodness. If you are reading this and you have a causal place for God in your life, or you don’t have any place at all, I beg you to make room. I beg you to accept the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ. I beg to to be loved beyond belief. I beg you to get to know the God that loved us enough that He gave everything so that we could have a chance. I beg you to get to know the God that loves and protects me and my family in ways I can’t even begin to fathom. It’s His unfailing love that has, is, and will continue to change the world.