WOODWARD — Several clergy leaders said they have spent the past week providing encouragement to tornado victims through prayers and lots of hugs.
Pastors and chaplains in this storm-ravaged city said they want people to know that the Lord is ever present in the midst of turmoil.
“We just want to emphasize that God can be trusted, even in times of struggle,” the Rev. Jason Dirks, senior pastor at Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church, said Friday.
“His plan moves through tragedy and brings good even in times of tragedy.”
Dirks said he had been asked to give the eulogy at Saturday's funeral service for three victims of the EF3 tornado that hit Woodward on Sunday. Frank Hobbie, 27, and his daughters Faith Hobbie, 7; and Kelly Hobbie, 4, died as a result of injuries suffered when the tornado touched down at the family's home at the Hide-A-Way Mobile Home Park.
The Rev. Mary Davis, vicar of St. John's Episcopal Church, said many of Woodward's churches had connections with people who died, lost loved ones or whose homes were damaged or destroyed.
The Rev. Donnetta Hunter, outreach pastor of Woodward First Assembly of God, said she and several clergy visited an early childhood center to talk to teachers and students grieving for two young children who died in the storm. She said they encouraged the children to talk about their feelings, and some of the youths wrote in their journals.
Hunter, who also serves as lead police chaplain for the police department, said she is encouraging adults to cry if they need to.
“It just blesses my soul to be able to reach out to them.”
Both Hunter and Davis said many Woodward residents are still in shock.
“The devastation was just overwhelming and it happens so fast,” Davis said.
“One woman told me they have already cleared the debris of two homes in her neighborhood that were destroyed by the tornado. It just changes the entire look and feel of your neighborhood.”
Hunter said she predicts the city's clergy and faith community will be called upon in the months ahead to counsel, encourage and come to the aid of citizens reeling from the destruction.
The city, she said, will rally.
“Woodward is an amazing place to live. People just want to help and they will,” Hunter said.
Like Dirks, she said she is sharing the message that the Lord is present in the aftermath of the storm.
“It's going to take some time but God is bigger than all of this. We're going to take this bad storm and make good come from it.”