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Oklahoma tornado aftermath: Prayers and song amid the darkness

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.  -- Isaiah 45:7

NORMAN, Okla. -- They arrived in twos and threes, sometimes with kids, sometimes in cars spattered with the telltale mud flecks from the tornado that just traumatized neighboring Moore.

They were survivors and onlookers and praying people, and on Tuesday night, the New Life Bible Church just down the highway in Norman was a safe, clean place to pray -- unlike some parts of Moore, still deemed too dangerous for civilians.

"In the middle of difficulty, the one thing we know is that God is good," Alan Danielson, the church's senior pastor, told the few dozen attending parishioners. That was the crux: the statement of faith, and the purest rebuttal to worldly tragedy, which had just the day before ended more than 20 lives.

PHOTOS: Powerful tornado slams Oklahoma

Then the praise band sang and the goers rose to their feet and shifted their weight from foot to foot slowly and sang along to songs with the usual themes of suffering, tolerance, deliverance and salvation, and then they all sat.

What did it all mean? Children ran and screamed playfully in the background of all the talking as a young man took the stage to recap the awful news about all the tornadoes that had scoured the region and stolen so many lives, and then added his own declaration: "Today we are doing our best to start recovery. Today we start over." Redemption.

It is painful to think about suffering, the young man said, but honorable, and it's a privilege to suffer together. And then like the audience, he sat too.

MAP: Path of destruction

Suffering. Honor. Privilege. Tornadoes. Rescuers. Mud-spattered cars. Emergency rooms. Suffering. Honor. Redemption. The praise band sang again, and when the song hit the bridge -- "It is well with my soul" -- a woman in the farthest-back row in the church auditorium suddenly began to sing the words. In harmony.

"There is no easy way to explain things like pain in this life," Danielson said, returning to the stage. "I don't know why God allows tornadoes ... but I know that God is with us."

Then a TV cameraman with an extraordinarily bright camera light appeared to film, blinding the parishioners as Danielson delivered his message of healing after the tornado.

The whole country, after all, wants to know about healing after the tornado.

And there they all were, learning to heal from something terrible, which had drawn them to this clean, safe church on a Tuesday night.

ALSO:

Storm cellar drama: Holding back the Oklahoma tornado

As Oklahomans reel from twister, they recall May 3, 1999

Oklahoma tornado reclassified as EF-5, with wind more than 200 mph

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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