Churches offerrefuge after tornado

Days after a devastating tornado ripped through southern Indiana, one local pastor said the emotions are like being on a roller coaster.

BY HEATHER MOYER | EVANSVILLE, Ind. | November 8, 2005

Days after a devastating tornado ripped through southern Indiana, one local pastor said the emotions are like being on a roller coaster.

"We're running on adrenaline right now," said the Rev. Randy Anderson, pastor of Evansville Centenary United Methodist Church and acting disaster response coordinator for the district.

"As this disaster becomes more visible to us, I think it will sink in. I don't think people have really internalized the destruction yet."

The tornado roared through Evansville early Sunday morning, killing at least 22 people and destroying more than 100 mobile homes. Vanderburgh and Warrick counties were declared federal disaster areas Tuesday. Another tornado ripped through central Kentucky as well.

In Evansville, Anderson is helping coordinate the immediate relief with the assistance of Epworth United Methodist Church and Newburgh United Methodist Church. Anderson is seeking volunteers who want to help clean up and can stay at Epworth. The Newburgh church is helping feed survivors from the devastated area.

"We've got a lot of volunteers so far, but not near enough," he explained. The Evansville twister left a 45-mile strip of destruction, touching down in Kentucky first and moving into Indiana after leveling a horse racing track.

Local pastors are stepping in to provide support, yet many of their congregations also suffered loss. Anderson's own church lost a young child and her father. "We're just doing our best to provide the support everyone needs," he said.

Meanwhile, some 160 miles southwest of Evansville, families in Munfordville, Ken., are cleaning up after a twister tore through the small town Sunday night as well. The emotional state there is similar to that in Evansville.

"The initial response is just that people can't believe it happened," said the Rev. Kevin Coulter of Munfordville Baptist Church. "The first thought is that we've got to get this all cleaned up - but they'll soon get to the point where they'll start questioning things. People are on adrenaline. One of my church's youths commented to me yesterday - he was in a house that was severely damaged - the destruction didn't sink in for him until daylight came and he saw everything."

For now Coulter's church is becoming a refuge. Now that the power is restored, Coulter said he and the church members hope to create a soup kitchen there for those who need meals. He is also in talks with a disaster relief team from a local college that could travel to Munfordville to help with the recovery. Other calls offering assistance have poured into his office as well.

The rest of the community has quickly pitched in to help their neighbors, Coulter added. "We have a lot of people helping. You hate tragedy, but when this happens, people come together. Bad things do bring out the best in people."

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