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A Tornado, Seriously?

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The ringing phone interrupted our family activity. 

Part Four in a four part series

Part One: The Night Mr. Vice President Came to Visit

Part Two: Feeling Like a Failure

Part Three: Mommy Does Not Talk Through the Bathroom Door

The ringing phone interrupted our family activity. Larry jumped up to grab the black antiquated receiver out in the hall, while the children and I continued watching the movie. This was not just any movie.

On this Easter Monday in Eastern Europe, we gathered to watch, as was our family Easter tradition, The JESUS Film. Though the film was contraband, we nevertheless proceeded. Our living room in Warsaw, Poland, housed a video cassette player and the film focused our hearts and minds on the significance of the holiday.

I overheard Larry on the phone, and immediately sensed this was not a cheerful holiday greeting; something was wrong. Instructing the children to continue watching without us, I slipped through the frosted pane doors to join him and sit nearby on the bottom step beside the radiator.

With a grim face, my husband held the receiver of the phone, which rested on the concrete windowsill. The tone of his voice further confirmed this to be a dreaded phone call.

Missionaries always live with the possibility of receiving bad news from those they love. And yet, one is never prepared. Distance accentuates the pain. A tense voice over a cold, plastic, impersonal piece of equipment is a cruel way to receive an unwanted message. This was our turn.

At 4:03 pm on the afternoon of April 21st, a tornado ripped through the agricultural farmland of the Mississippi Delta and totaled my parents’ home. With only seconds to respond, they jumped in the nearest vehicle to race to safety, but not before my mother grabbed her purse from their bedroom at the end of the hall.

A continent away, Larry and I held the receiver between us and listened to the blow-by-blow report, which replayed every detail of the harrowing experience. 

Interruption from the living room: Mommy, the film is nearly over, and at the end, they will tell people how to receive Jesus. Our little girl had seen this film previously, and she knew the upcoming conclusion.

My response: Please go back into the living room and keep watching. Daddy and I are on the phone with a very important conversation.

She obeyed.

The international phone conversation: When my parents saw the funnel cloud approaching from the southwest horizon, they sped for cover under the safety of the nearest concrete bridge. Holding on for dear life to structural pilings underneath, they fought the suction, and listened to the deafening roar as the destructive monster barreled past.

Interruption from the living room: Mommy, the movie is nearly over, and when they tell people how to receive Jesus, David (her younger brother) should pray. He has not invited Jesus into his heart, and he can do this today at the end.

My response: Please go back. We can talk about this later. Daddy and I cannot leave the phone right now.

She obeyed.

The international phone conversation: When they emerged, they at first thought their home had been spared. But they were sadly mistaken. The destruction was devastating, but they were overwhelmed with God’s mercy and power in preserving their lives. Larry and I hung up the phone and looked at each other. The sickening feeling of distance—a feeling missionaries are well acquainted with—descended. Separated by an ocean, we felt helpless. There was nothing we could physically do to contribute toward the massive cleanup they faced.

Interruption from the living room: Mommy, Daddy, David just became a Christian. At the end of the movie, He invited Jesus into his heart. Now he will go to heaven!


She obeyed. She obeyed the nudging of the Holy Spirit. 

The events in this tumultuous week resulted in one more soul being ushered into the Kingdom.

A visit by Mr. Vice President, a fisher of men

A crisis in the kitchen involving the shrimp  

A crisis upstairs involving the goldfish

An untimely conversation, Mommy did not want to talk through the bathroom door

An evangelistic film

A transatlantic phone call with an unwanted interruption

A devastating tornado

The spiritual leadership of one older sister

The spiritual hunger of one little brother; he invited Jesus into his heart.

Fast forward to the year 2000 and the days leading up to the wedding this older sister, when her younger brother said, “I will always remember that you were the one who led me to Jesus.”

And I will always remember the work of God—in spite of crisis, feeling of failure, inconvenience, and tornado—to orchestrate His miracles in the life of one small missionary family.

Pulling back the Iron Curtain to view real life behind that Iron Curtain...


Living with Eternal Intentionality

Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has entered the heart of man, all that God has planned for those that love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).