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May 6th, 2011
08:16 AM ET

Faith unshaken by tornado

By Aaron Brodie, CNN

Tuscaloosa, Alabama (CNN) - The sound of someone playing a piano drew us in to the Alberta Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, two days after a devastating tornado ripped a deadly gash that will scar this Southern town for years to come.

I had been looking for a high spot where I could to shoot a panoramic image of the endless landscape of destruction, but I turned back toward the church with CNN's Wayne Drash to see where the music was coming from.

Alberta Baptist seemed to have fared better than many of the buildings in the immediate area. It was an oddity in this neighborhood, because it was both standing and clearly recognizable. Whatever had been next door was neither.

The church was hardly unscathed, though. Much of the roof was missing. Stained glass windows were blown out. And the facade of the main chapel was reduced to a pile of rubble spread across the front sidewalk like a bag of building blocks.

Inside the church, we met a small group of members who had come to witness firsthand the challenge that lay ahead. A young girl stopped playing the piano as her mother began to tell us how the building had recently been renovated.

I started taking photos of mangled metal and shattered sheetrock, all covered with a thick dusting of insulation that made you itch just by looking at it. As I was about to leave, I met Joe Southern, a member of Alberta Baptist for 45 years.

Joe lives in a part of Tuscaloosa that was spared the monster's wrath. Yet he decided to make the trek across town through military checkpoints, driving down streets littered with debris into what can easily be described as a war zone, to see the fate of his religious home.

In this video interview, Joe explains that while "we've lost a building," the church is more than just bricks and mortar: The church is the people. He says the congregation will rebuild, and that the tornado and its aftermath have only served to strengthen his belief in God.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Alabama • Baptist • Church • Houses of worship

soundoff (969 Responses)
  1. John

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_6PxnvaySw&w=640&h=390]

    August 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • .....

      Don't bother viewing this junk it's not worth your time, click the report abuse link to get rid of this troll!

      August 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  2. John

    Still a believer? Don't get an IQ test anytime soon. Hilarious.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Mark

      This life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  3. Keith

    Well, here we go, AGAIN. Obama wants to divide the covenant land and low and behold we get smoked with natural disasters, AGAIN-but I'm crazy because I seem to be the only one making the correlation on this blog. Obama needs to do more than apologize to the people in Joplin, MO and after tonight-God knows who else. This man is a one-man wrecking ball. I wish the Irish would keep him. May God bless and protect Bibi Netanyahu. ...for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye. Zechariah 2:8. Obama is either a misguided, Jeremiah Wright -taught moron or he's doing this to intentionally harm our nation. Either way, we can't take much more of this.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Fact Check

      Bro. Keith. I hear your heart, but you fell for the politcized trap. Obama's position on Israel is no different than Pres. Bush's was during his term. The US has remained opposed to the steady advance of Israeli settlements into the land internationally given to the defeated Palestinians after the war. As a side note, it's questionable theology to blame the tornadoes on dealings with Israel. And "questionable" is being kind.

      May 27, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  4. Keith

    Well, here we go, AGAIN. Obama wants to divide the covenant land and low and behold we get smoked with natural disasters, AGAIN-but I'm crazy because I seem to be the only one making the correlation on this blog. Obama needs to do more than apologize to the people in Joplin, MO and after tonight-God knows who else. This man is a one-man wrecking ball. I wish the Irish would keep him. May God bless and protect Bibi Netanyahu. ...for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye. Zechariah 2:8. Obama is either a misguided, Jeremiah Wright -taught moron or he's doing this to intentionally harm our nation.

    May 24, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  5. David

    Seriously, Doug??? You're actually heartless enough to think God would smoke a bunch fo people just to give them a chance to rebuild??? You are pathetic. Religious people's God kicks there ass and it "strengthens their faith". Could they be any more delusional??? Obama has done more good for this country than that idiot George W. Bush did in ruining the economy. Wake up.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  6. Doug

    "Seek Ye the Lord while He may be found." "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." What a blessing to meet a man of Faith! Thank you for posting his testimony. God might use this severe damage to give men and women work to earn their way back to "normal" and accomplish more than Obama and the Democratic Congress did with their TARP money that has had little effect on our economy other than lining the pockets of some crooks with our tax money. The best comes out of us when the going gets tough.

    May 24, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  7. Doug

    "Seek Ye the Lord while He may be found." "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." What a blessing to meet a man of Faith! Thank you for posting his testimony. God might use this severe damage to give men and women work to earn their way back to "normal" and accomplish more than pompus Obama and the Democratic Congress did with their TARP money that has had little effect on our economy other than lining the pockets of some crooks with our tax money. The best comes out of us when the going gets tough.

    May 24, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  8. Mason

    I'm agnostic, and I do consider myself to be a skeptic, but I respect and admire this man's faith and his views. Very inspiring.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  9. MDS

    This is so pathetic. You anti-religious, anti belief, anti faith, anti everything freaks are always looking for any reason to spit your nausating ramblings concerning God. You can't prove there isn't a God, so just shut up!! You people want to blame for everything on God, when you don't believe in Him in the first place. Why is that? At the creation, God set into motion the elements that would be our weather. Sadly, the elements came together to produce a massive tornado, which to hear you tell it, is caused by global warming which has nothing to do with God.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Gabe

      So true

      July 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  10. Mark

    So your god kills 115 people and you are saying that it just strengthens your faith in god? No thanks.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  11. mkub

    I have a feeling that many of the people on here who act like it's foolish or ignorant to have your faith in God strengthened after a tragedy such as this have never (and will never experience) the power of nature to this magnitude. There are so many different definitions for "God," many early religions treated "mother Earth" as God (actually Goddess). Just don't judge until you've walked a mile in these people's shoes. Can't we all realize by now that everybody has different views and simply Respect them?

    May 24, 2011 at 5:25 am |
  12. Jesus Abandons Religion and Learns the Banjo

    [url="http://www.atheistcartoons.com/?attachment_id=4380"]

    May 22, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • CHRISTIANHATERSsssss

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dWZFcW-8ag&w=640&h=390]

      May 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Mason

      Like the Quran's any better

      May 24, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  13. David

    Do you believe there is something more because you honestly think it is true based on evidence, or simply wish it to be true? There is nothing honorable, courageous or defensible about believing what makes you feel good, as opposed to what is true.

    May 21, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  14. Lee

    People will look at any event or condition and say "it strengthen's faith in their god" I feel sorry for them.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Lee

      Lee what we have here is a perfect example of free will. You get to beleive there is nothing out there and when we die we just shut off. While these people get to beleive that something put them in this place, something that looks over them something that makes them continue to go through their day. Nothing wrong with that Lee. They did not make a comment on how they feel sorry for Lee cause he doesnt believe so show them the same respect. They are going through hell right now, everything they had is gone. life as it was has been changed. Its what gets them out of bed each morning and carry on with life in the current sense of destruction they now call home. Personally I feel I would have to be pretty small minded to beleive this is all there is. That life has nothing else to offer that by some chance an explosion put me here. I believe there is more. Does it make me crazy? No It's just what I beleive. Its my free will.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  15. 1plus1

    I thought that all the talk about the church not being brick and mortar, but within everyone (Gospel of St. Thomas), was not allowed into the bible when King James decided which books he wanted in the bible, and which he didn't. Obviously if the church isn't brick and mortar, then they can't pass around a collection plate.

    It makes sense if you don't think about it.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  16. Milton

    There are some logical conflicts in the end of days. See if true believers like Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Michelle Bachmann get beamed up in the rapture, I'm having a really hard time understanding how those remaining will be worse off than they are now? They claim it will be a hell on earth, but if Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Michelle Bachmann are in heaven, then, I think they got this one backwards.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  17. Milton

    Either god is 1) a psychotic misanthrope, 2) not all powerful when it comes to overcoming evil, or 3) non-existent. In my opinion, option 3 is the most comforting so why believe at all?

    May 19, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Chancho

      so if God does not fit who you want Him to be then He must not exist. If you dont understand all the reasons behind what He is doing then He must not exist so there for you do not exist because you do not fit into who i think a person should be and i do not understand all the reasons why you post what you do. not very sound reasoning eh?

      May 24, 2011 at 4:50 am |
    • jwas1914

      Hello Milton, I’ve read your comments referencing God’s existence. According to the Bible it says “The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search; all his ideas are: “There is no God”. Of course we do not want to be considered wicked so it’s important that we do our research. There are many individuals like you that feel that God does not exist because of the teachings of false religions. Remember one thing, never take to heart what people say unless they can prove it in writing; and even still be careful, do your research. For example Christianity has taught that when evil people die they go to a place in hell where they will eternally suffer. Well; what does the Bible say about this? 1 John 4:8 says that “God is love”. How can God (Jehovah; Psalms 83:18) who is love be willing to make his children suffer in the manner that religion has taught? Ecclesiastes 9:5 says that “the living are conscious that they will die but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten”. This proves that when we die we will have no knowledge of anything at all. So the teachings of eternal suffering in a place called Hell is completely false and any organization that stands by this teaching will not receive God’s blessings. The point I’m trying to get across is that it is our responsibility to scrutinize the scriptures very carefully. This way we will not fall in the trap in listening and reacting to false teachings. As you read this you may be questioning my motives, or maybe questioning a few points you have read. This is why we must take it upon ourselves to read the Bible daily. My intent is not to offend you but to help you and others see Jehovah God’s purpose in a positive manner. Be well and be safe.

      June 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  18. Chantal

    AMEN.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.