March 4th, 2012
09:31 AM ET

Churches aid recovery in storm-hit town

By Eric Marrapodi and Athena Jones, CNN

Henryville, Indiana (CNN)– Church members held hands as they prayed among the pews at Henryville Community Church on Sunday morning.

"One week ago, we prayed, 'God use us in some way,' " pastor Rich Cheek said as he led the congregation in prayer.

"This morning, so many of you have lost everything," Cheek said, his voice cracking with emotion. "We asked God to use us, and he did."

Outside, a forklift off-loaded pallets of dry goods and bottles of water from a tractor-trailer. The church recreation center and basement have become a clearinghouse for supplies brought in from nearby Louisville, Kentucky, and trucked in by tractor-trailers from Convoys of Hope, a relief agency from Springfield, Missouri.

Henryville Community Church had almost no damage from Friday's violent storms. It sits just north of the path of the deadly storm.

Pallets of water await distribution at Henryville Community Church.

The school next door, which housed preschool through 12th grade, is in ruins. Across the road, the neighborhood is a tangled mess of 2x4s, metal siding and the remains of family homes.

Henryville Community Presbyterian Church, a half mile up the road, lost its roof and stained-glass windows, and pews were upended across the sanctuary.

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St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, just east of the school, has also become a staging ground for rescue workers and media briefings.

“Everything I do in my life beyond my family and my church is in that building, and now it’s all gone,” said Vicki Hornine, a St. Francis parishioner and preschool teacher. “That part of me is very broken inside, but I’m not going to let anyone see that. I’m going to fix that broken part, and we’re going to be OK and that starts first right here with my faith. It will pull me together so I have strength to fix that."

Parishioners pray at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

Her church suffered minimal damage.

“We can see only our own anguish and grief– or we can see the opportunity to join hands and hearts with others to uplift and to inspire,” Rev. Steven Schaftlein at St. Francis Catholic Church told his congregants on Sunday morning. “We can choose despair, or we can choose hope. We can choose to do nothing, or we can choose to do everything and live everything and be renewed in everything.”

Before the service at Henryville Community Church began, youth pastor Shawn Kelly directed relief efforts while his 10-year-old tended a small campfire of debris.

"The hand of God was on us. We didn't get any damage," he said.

"We need volunteers to sort," Kelly said, standing in the fluorescent lights of the church recreation center. Bags of clothes were stacked up across the basketball foul line, and a suit rested on a hanger from the rim of one of the basketball hoops.

"We've had tons of donations, tons of volunteers. We just need people to know we're here," Kelly said.

On Saturday, 200 volunteers showed up at Kelly’s church, more than doubling the membership of 80.

"It's starting to get to me," said Robin Hill, a board member at the Henryville Community Church, choking back tears.

The iconic image of this twister - a mangled school bus embedded in the side of a restaurant - has a personal connection for her. Her parents, McKee and "Teenny" Munk, opened the small cafe decades ago. "The ironic thing is, my dad drove a school bus for Henryville for 55 years," Hill said.

Her mother saw her old restaurant on the national news from Florida.

"It's a material thing, as long as no one was hurt," Hill said her mother told her by phone Saturday.

McKee Munk, who passed away two years ago, also held the scoring record for the Henryville Hornets basketball team for years. From the parking lot at Henryville Community Church, you can see into the school gym. The storm sheared off one of the gym's walls.

School officials made the decision to let students out early Friday when the storm warnings came in. Joe Sullivan from the National Weather Service office in Louisville said on Saturday that decision prevented what could have been "scores of fatalities" here.

Henryville Community Presbyterian Church lost its roof in a Friday tornado.

Along the streets near the church, the destruction stretches for blocks and blocks.

At Henryville Community and St. Francis Xavier, the members sang “Amazing Grace,” many wiping tears.

"We have so much to be grateful for," Cheek said during his sermon. “Why did this happen? I don't care. It did, and we have an opportunity to make a difference.”

CNN’s Dana Garrett and Chris Welch contributed to this report

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • Houses of worship • Presbyterian

soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. Spence

    Everyone that sees someone in need has a choice. Be a blessing to that person or not. God already placed people all around us, and when tragedy strikes you can anticipate that someone will either become your "angel" or someone will fail to live up to the obligation to their fellow man. We are already here. No matter what your skin color, or faith (or lack of it), or nationality. When any of us see someone in need, we make a choice. That choice is the limit of our humanity.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • In Reason I Trust

      Oh so god was just testing us to see if we help one another. Too bad all those people had to suffer and die, but hey, god had to test us. Can't have untested people in heaven.

      Do you realize how insane your god sounds?

      March 5, 2012 at 3:12 am |

    All you christians why would you want to follow anyone who say that he will have people burn forever!!!!

    March 5, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • world

      what do you see around you? People doing good and acting like angels? What do you do if you find out that one of your kid stole some jewelry? don't tell me, you buy your kid an xbox 360 with 20 games as a reward for stealing?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • uhhhno

      i don't believe the bible. if a baby dies without being baptized, i don't believe jesus will burn him forever in hell. i think the baby goes to hell for like 500,000 years. wayyy less than eternity. jesus is too kind to make babies stay in hell FOREVER. in the bible, jesus is probably only talking about adults over 18 years old.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • world

      First of all, nowhere in the bible it says that you have to baptize childrens, and if they don't, they go to hell....those are man made rules.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • Joe T.

      If my kid stole some jewelry, I sure wouldn't torment them for all eternity with fire.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm |

    Why when something good happens to someone or something bad miss them it's God's hand BUT when something bad happens to a 18 month lil girl he has nothing to do with it. People God isn't in any of it, it's just the luck of the draw.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  4. HypocrAtheists

    And what the good, intelligent and noble atheists are doing now?

    March 5, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • expert

      i am about to go to sleep, thanks for asking

      March 5, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • Spence

      That's right! When the worlds people are in need, "Expert" the Atheist goes to sleep. Very good point.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • In Reason I Trust

      Everything you guys are doing, except we do it minus the brainwashing. I see church's give out food to the homeless, but make them pray. That's using someone's hunger to brainwash them. Atheist's just give them the food. We don't waste money building giant churches to worship imaginary friends, we spend it on the poor.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:16 am |
    • In God We Trust

      How about in this time where people are in need of (your) help? Do you care to go out and do what religious people are doing? Or you just keep on sticking your lazy butts bashing people who are doing the deeds. Just because they do believe what you don't?

      If you really are doing the good deeds that religious has been doing sans the brainwashing etc. then why nobody knows it? Ah, ok you are doing it in secret because you don't want your left knows what your right hand hand is doing, right?

      Then that's good..you kept all good works in secret but advertising arrogance and stupidity spending $15K a piece.

      March 6, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • AtheiStS

      I fed the street dogs everyday and everyone in my town knew it. Unfortunately, the streetdogs simultaneously died in hunger. But I fed those street dos, I SWEAR!

      March 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  5. HypocrAtheists


    March 5, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  6. rcflyer8410

    Religion is a joke... if a murderer comes in your house and kills all family members but one, do you "pray to and praise him" for sparing the one?

    I'm not trying to indulge religion – it is a joke and a waste of energy. However, it's amazing to see how stupid people really are.. no wonder Santorum actually has supporters!

    March 5, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • Yup

      you're such an ignorant person. So what's your point?

      March 5, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • Matt

      Well said rcflyer- we KNOW (not believe) that the ignorant religious ones inhibit evolotion.
      The irony is; these dumb religious folks actually show dawinism at its best!

      Pray and hide while I run and survive. More room for me.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • Yup

      So what's the point of your argument?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Yup

      @matt, give me evidence cause you say " we KNOW that the ignorant religious ones inhibit evolotion.", give me good evidence and not your baseless and ignorant opinion

      March 5, 2012 at 1:16 am |
  7. eddie russo


    March 5, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Yup

      "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." Mathew 7:6

      March 5, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • In Reason I Trust

      "Refrigerate after opening."- carton of milk

      March 5, 2012 at 3:18 am |
  8. logan5

    How pathetic! Their god allowed death and destruction to come upon them and then they pray for a chance to help clean up the mess. How about you people show some back-bone and angrily question this god of yours as to WHY this was allowed to happen in the first place. You deserve an answer.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Yup

      The fool[a] says in his heart,
      “There is no God.”
      They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
      there is no one who does good. Palms14:1

      March 5, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Matt

      If god is real, he is corrupt obviously.

      I asked a pastor one time "If the earth was created in six days, within the last twenty thousand years, then why are there dinosaur bones and records of humans going back much, much more in time?"

      He says, "Well Matt, it's because god put those here to test our faith!"
      I then responded "So god is a lyar; and we should bow to HIM?"

      The conversation was over and I never wasted another day in church or read another verse in the book of lies.
      Prayer is for the weak mided.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • Yup

      @Matt, one day we'll see who was right and who was the corrupted one...at the end of the day, one day we have to die and see if heaven exist or not, we'll find out if God exist or if it was a myth. You can rebuke every body's faith, and i respect your comment or belief but you don't, but i'm going to tell you something, i don't really care if you and nonbelievers say God is corrupt, that he's a myth, i don't care, i stand firm with my faith and belief. Every single day of your life until you died, you are going to hear this words:"JESUS LOVES YOU"

      March 5, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  9. Mike

    God, what a joke. Just like the idiots that keep rebuilding in the path of tornadoes. If there were a God, this is him simply cleaning out the herd since we are too naive to realize there is a basis to "The strong (and smart) survive."

    I feel for the young ones that lose their lives in these situations due to their parents beliefs.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • toadears

      These disasters are getting more and more frequent. If all you can do is add to the problem, then die off yourself because you have no right to laugh at other people's beliefs. I take it back, you have the right to disbelieve and they have the right TO believe. I wish this had been your family because your heart is evil.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Yup

      The fool[a] says in his heart,
      “There is no God.”
      They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
      there is no one who does good.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • TING

      I feel for the young ones that lose their lives in these situations due to their parents beliefs.

      So it was the parent's beliefs that led to their deaths? How did you come to that conclusion?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  10. jimmerz

    God spells "use" starting with "ab-"

    March 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  11. scoobypoo

    "The hand of God was on us. We didn't get any damage," he said.

    Yep, and this "all loving, all powerful" god let scores of others perish.
    Sheesh, just think for one minute.

    March 4, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • toadears

      I am thinking I love to watch mockers and scoffers and then see their areas get hit with tragedy. All that whining you did after 9-11. Then you get the big butt again as soon as it's over. Well good. Next relative you have to die that you actually like, remember...just fertilizer. They didn't go anywhere. And feel free to relieve yourself on their grave because your time here on earth has been a total waste.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  12. Don

    This town have suffered enough. If my comments brought back the loved one's that died, I would make them comments.

    March 4, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  13. Chinocilp


    the true problem is ideology. whether religious or political

    One more thing on that note. Again that is a very good statement. This country claims the Bible. Which many of them know is a fairy tale. They use it quite handly as a "tool" of pacification or to incite people. The United States is a very bad invader of other countries on the earth. We have always been an invader of other countries. Right now after invading Iraq. The Iranians have a pipleline straight from Iraq into the Iranian refinery. Nothing every comes with our "squabble" with Iran and in fact is used as a "straw man" to stablized a country we have invaded. Not to mention the 2 other countries we have invaded. Afganistan and Libya. They use things such as the horrors of war which of course they never do. It would come as a suprise to find out there are "mass graves" ini Iraq. Being told that we are good and "Democratic". While in the same vain installing "puppet" governments in places like Iraq and Afganistan just isn't working for them. The Chinese and the Russians are both pumping oil in Iraq also. Once you figure out its about business. Then you understand the fraud that is being perpetrated on you. You won't find the "mass graves" in Iraq on the internet. But can sure find out about whos drilling in Iraq. Including the Iranians. Which makes no damn sense compared with what they are telling you every single day.

    March 4, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  14. krt

    I see only great hate, anger, and rudeness in the hearts of most atheists in here. Negative force and vibes. Better sleep now...they have eyes but cannot see.

    March 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Anon

      Yes, yes let negative energy flow through and you'll shall embrace the dark side of the force, LOL

      March 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • popeye47

      One of the people from one of the churches made the comment."The hand of god was on us".
      My question is: What happened to people who died. The hand of the god was not on them. Were they being punished?? What about the one church that had damage. I assume that church didn't have the hand of god on them either.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Damo

      I can't sleep, I'm waiting up for Santa.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • popeye47

      You know what is really insane logic.

      The same god who sent a tornado about 1,000 feet wide and miles long and destroyed buildings at random, was the same god that spared people not in the path of the tornado. Was there not good and bad people together in that path. Is this a god that just kills at random. Is this reality or just a fairy tale. What is real and what is just imaginary, like there being a real god.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • TING

      Were they being punished??

      No. They are being tested. It's all part of the plan.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Matt

      Well they failed the test. Shouldv'e been studying, not praying.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  15. Chinocilp


    the true problem is ideology. whether religious or political.

    I agree with that statement all the way. You can steal a persons life with ideology and philosophies. Morality is just something that is part of the earth and does not need to be taught in any way. In fact its part of humanity by way of the earth in many respects. You can't just leave it to humans or enforcement. Police derive their "authority" from the bible or other such moral writtings. When in fact they have none. Most people in "modern" society care nothing about the earth. In fact the "bible" teachs people to hate the world and everything in it. Yet the book says Abraham was given and the whole earth because of that is blessed. Very bad contradiction of the book itself. There is another part of the world that does not live like "modern" society almost 1/2 of the earth. They need no laws or politicians. Many of them have their own food and shelter more than enough of what they need. So they don't need anyone to "protect" anything nor take anything from them or DO anything for them.

    March 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Anon

      Fck the three abrahamic desert blood cults. Fck the imaginary concept of Yahweh,Jesus,Jehovah, YHWH, Elohim, Tetragrammaton, Allah, Lucifer and whatever retarded name people pull out of their a$$es.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  16. Anon


    March 4, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  17. MT

    "The hand of God was on us. We didn't get any damage," he said.

    So, who is this god that hates all the people who died and had their homes demolished? I mean, he protected you, but not them, so he must have it in for them, right?

    March 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  18. ropeadope

    The name of this forum needs to be changed to "Non-Belief"!.

    March 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • newsreel

      Sorry, its real name is: the honest plain true reflection of society.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • AtheiStS

      It definitely doesn't matter it. We are everywhere to solicit an inch of attention.

      March 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  19. NJ

    I feel bad for those atheists.... I wonder what kind of mother raised them unloved

    March 4, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • momoya

      That's a really weird thing to say. O.o

      We don't even know what we don't know. We can't even detect 96% of the universe. Myths with magic are really cool stories with great insight into the minds of our ancestors, but there's no need to idolize their mistaken notions. We figured out chemistry and math fairly well, why can't god and correct worship be as obvious? If god ever shows up on the scene, you're not going to miss it, but until then don't play guessing games. God isn't real because there's nothing stopping anyone from believing in any god at all; he's useless because the term is too general, and people just use it to define their values and justify any action they want to take.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • newsreel

      We could ask the same thing. We feel bad for those who believe in fairy tales, and wonder what kind of mother would deceive her child, brainwash them to a fake belief from their childhood. See, we can both be nasty on either side, but from your side, who claim to be holier-than-thou, this nastiness is showing your real value, the ugliness of your faith to bad mouth your opponents this way. Shame, shame.

      March 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • abinadi

      I have watched a couple of people become atheists. They get into sinning and decide they like it and then when parents and church leaders tell them they need to quit, they rebel and say there is no God, because if there were one they would have to give up their sins and they love their sins more than they love God.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • newsreel

      Only people prone to have sin would need to go to church to "clean" their sins. Honest people who can look themselves in the mirror everyday without shame don't need this kind of childish, make believe ritual.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Anon

      ^ If you really need an imaginary god watching you 24/7/365 to keep you from being a mass murderer,rapist, etc, please stay religious.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Truth Hurts

      What I enjoy about this most of all is that you have each spent so much time and energy in pointing out what is wrong with others beliefs. This begs me to wonder what your beliefs are? So you must believe that 5 hour energy actually helps you and that a Prius will be the savior of the Earth. Here's a suprise the Earth will not survive how we are treating this Earth. But my question for you is where will you go next. At least I have a true home!

      March 4, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • expert

      unlike most atheists I don't mind, and in fact respect, some religious people, but hate @s s holes like you who hold themselves to high pedestals, what a m0r0n

      March 5, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  20. S-Hug

    You Bible thumpers just don't get it. All the praying in the world isn't going to stop these storms. As long as we humans continue to use the skies as an open sewer for our tailpipes and smokestacks, these storms are just going to increase in strength and frequency. If you would put down the scripture and read some actual science for a change, you'd understand. There aren't any climatologists who doubt humans are causing global warming — except the ones well funded by Big Oil and "Clean Coal." We all have what's coming to us. If God is trying to tell us anything, it's "Stop destroying that which I have provided you, lest you be destroyed."

    March 4, 2012 at 10:43 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.