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In Oklahoma, a balm after the storm
Volunteers unload donations for tornado victims at the First Baptist Church on May 23, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.
May 25th, 2013
06:05 PM ET

In Oklahoma, a balm after the storm

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) - For six days, First Baptist Church in Moore, Oklahoma, provided food and shelter to victims of Monday’s deadly tornado. On the seventh day, the church offers another scarce resource: solace.

“Simply put, we are urging people to draw near to the Lord and near to each other,” said Kevin Clarkson, the church’s senior pastor. “As bad as this time is, we find that God will give us comfort and solace and hope for the future.”

Four of the nine children who died in Monday’s tornado had ties to First Baptist. On Sunday evening, the church will host a prayer service called “Oklahoma Strong: Coming Together in Faith,” which Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to attend.

In all, 24 people perished as a result of Monday’s tornado. Nearly 400 suffered broken bones and bruises, and 1,200 homes in Moore and Oklahoma City were damaged or destroyed, according to state officials. The twister’s tenacity took even Tornado Alley by surprise.

But as cleanup begins, imams, pastors and rabbis in the deeply religious Sooner State are encouraging believers to draw on the deep wells of their traditions for spiritual sustenance. The common message across the faiths seems to be: God’s voice was not in Monday’s whirlwind but rather in the steady, quiet aftermath of neighbor helping neighbor.

“What happens may be random, but how we respond to it is not,” said Rabbi Vered L. Harris of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City. “Making our responses holy begins with noticing the potential for sanctity.”

One block, two tornadoes: Life in the crosshairs

At Shabbat services on Friday night, Harris read a prayer asking God for the wisdom “to know how we can help” and “the calm to bring comfort.”

Like Harris, Abdur-Rahman Taleb, the director of youth services at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, focused on the human response to Monday’s tornado.

“I find it amazing how people will come together across their differences for a common goal,” Taleb said. “The amount of people who came forward from the different faith communities to help those in need, regardless of their beliefs, is extraordinary.”

Taleb said his sermon on Friday focused on the Quran’s second chapter, which tells Muslims that God tests the faithful with “fear and hunger and loss of property.”

Passing that test entails remaining patient amid calamity, the Quran says.

“We want to be mindful of God day in and day out, whether we’re going through good times or bad,” Taleb said.

At Journey Church, an evangelical megachurch about 10 miles from Moore, Sunday’s message is about rebuilding, said Pastor Sam Wampler.

The congregation will look to Nehemiah, who restored the walls of Jerusalem, for inspiration, said the pastor.

“We are far enough in now where the grieving, the anger, is kicking in,” Wampler said. “People need that hope.”

Photos: Pets rescued after Oklahoma tornado

Pastor Bobby Gruenewald of LifeChurch.tv, which has 11 branches in Oklahoma, said his message on Sunday will focus on two key questions: Where is God during tragedies? And what can Christians do to help?

“It's been a tough week but also an encouraging one as we've seen a tremendous response from the faith community,” Gruenewald said. “Churches from just about every denomination we can think of are coming forward with offers to help.”

A garden statue of the Virgin Mary stands in front of a window shattered by the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.

Some of the tornado’s first-responders have been turning to the Rev. Thomas Boyer, the longtime pastor at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in nearby Norman, Oklahoma.

“It will be tough on them now,” said the 72-year-old priest, “and it will be tough on them later.”

Boyer said he’s still searching for the right words to say in response.

“Normally my homily is done on Thursday and posted on the website, but it's not even done," the priest said on Friday afternoon, as day darkened into night.

Boyer will have some help: the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City adjusted the prayers and petitions for Sunday Mass to address the area's tribulations.

But sometimes there is nothing to say other than “look to the Lord,” said Clarkson, who has already presided at the funerals of three young tornado victims.

Perhaps that’s why Jared Bowie’s photo of a dark tornado twisting toward a cross has gone viral.

Bowie, an intern at LifeChurch.tv’s campus in Edmond, Oklahoma, said his image has graced thousands of blog posts, media reports, Facebook pages and Instagram accounts since he posted it to CNN’s iReport. One woman even printed out the image and hung it next to her wedding photo, Bowie said.

The picture was taken on May 19, when another tornado, a less destructive forebear of Monday’s deadly whirlwind, churned through Oklahoma. Nonetheless, the image has become inextricably tied to Moore’s loss of lives and homes, and the ultimate source of salvation for Bowie and other Christians.

“People are going through severe suffering right now,” Bowie said. “But in those times, our Savior can provide so much hope. There is light in the darkness.”

Eric Marrapodi, Dan Merica and Jessica Ravitz contributed to this report.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Church • United States

soundoff (1,053 Responses)
  1. aldewacs

    I hope that the Oklahoma victims get assistance from government and individuals alike.
    But prayer isn't going to do it.
    Prayer is just to keep useless people busy and out of the way while others actually do something productive.
    But as long as the believers stay out of the path of the helpers, I guess their mumblings won't harm anybody.

    May 26, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • tony

      If prayer changes things, then the "praying types" have lot to answer for.

      Look at how so many terrible things have happened since 1 AD. Seems like BC History was a lot less harmful to the population as a whole.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  2. faith

    “The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt.”

    one thing's 4 sure, nazi god hating fascists r incapable of learning like intelligent people do and therefore will experience intense, excruciating, constant pain. couldn't happen 2 a sweeter bunch. lol

    May 26, 2013 at 10:13 am |

    • I don't think you've ever been within 50 miles of an intelligent person, faith.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • tony

      What a strange name you have.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • snowboarder

      @faith, that is pretty nutty.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • One one

      "one thing's 4 sure, nazi god hating fascists r incapable of learning like intelligent people do and therefore will experience intense, excruciating, constant pain. couldn't happen 2 a sweeter bunch. lol"

      Sounds like you would enjoy personally administering the intense, excruciating, constant pain.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  3. Hillcrester

    The right words are, "Why did OK's Congress members try to is angle FEMA".

    May 26, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • aldewacs

      ... huh?

      May 26, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  4. tony

    Part the Read Sea, flatten Moore OK. What's the difference?

    Only two possibilities. Bad God or No God.

    May 26, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Jonah

      I think the world is just a big machine that God wound up and set in motion. Things just happen. If we put our faith and trust in God, I sincerely believe that he does intervene in our behalf. That has definately been my own experience.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • aldewacs

      "I think the world is just a big machine that God wound up and set in motion." ...
      @Jonah: you have just moved a tiny step towards agnosticism, to be followed by atheism if you keep thinking critically. All you need to do now is drop the reference to any gods and you're on your way.
      Appreciating evolution is your next assignment.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Jonah
      What you really have there is Deism. It is the belief of a one god, but that christianity is wrong, organized religion is wrong, and that god does not interfere with the functioning of the natural world..

      Thomas Edison was a Deist.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Jonah

      Well, as a Latter Day Saint, I believe that all religions have some truth in them, but none of them have the whole and complete gospel. That is why God needed to call Joseph Smith to restore the whole truth. Only a prophet of God can give us the whole truth.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • snowboarder

      i understand how the old religions use indoctrination and groupthink to maintain their flock, but i will never understand how people fall for contemporary religions like mormonism or scientology.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  5. snowboarder

    life is incredibly random.

    May 26, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  6. faith

    ed dugan
    They can look all they want but they ain't going to see anything! The "lord" just abandoned OK just to show those folks he's an Aggie fan. Meanwhile all of those religious hucksters called "men of the cloth" go around spouting their BS thinking they are doing some good. Religion sucks!

    glad it bothers u, my love!

    May 26, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  7. One one

    "God tests the faithful with “fear and hunger and loss of property.”

    So this is a test by god ? Why would a god want to "test" his creations ?

    May 26, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • faith

      One one
      "God tests the faithful with “fear and hunger and loss of property.”
      So this is a test by god ? Why would a god want to "test" his creations ?

      y not?

      May 26, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • ed dugan

      The only explanation for this tradegy is sh** happens! Those clerics spouting irrelevant words to people who don't want to think for themselves are merely religious hucksters. As our friend William said so well, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

      May 26, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Vic

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/22/this-oklahoma-atheist-isnt-thanking-the-lord/comment-page-16/#comment-2363529

      May 26, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • faith

      ed dugan
      The only explanation for this tradegy is sh** happens! Those clerics spouting irrelevant words to people who don't want to think for themselves are merely religious hucksters. As our friend William said so well, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

      lol

      preach it babe

      what a total idiot

      don't give up, though, u r a scream

      love your misery

      lol

      May 26, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • tony

      The death penalty is not a test you can pass, especially for children.

      May 26, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  8. SixDegrees

    Jesus is thirsty! Jesus wants blood! Baby blood!

    May 26, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • aldewacs

      Since there are no gods, thankfully this can be filed under 'sarcasm'.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  9. EndPoliticalParties

    God giving 'Comfort and Solace"??? So why did he kills those folks in the first place and in such a violent manner and leave hundreds of other inujured and homeless? If he needed to 'call them home', why not just let them all pass quietly in their sleep?

    May 26, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • faith

      EndPoliticalParties
      God giving 'Comfort and Solace"??? So why did he kills those folks in the first place and in such a violent manner and leave hundreds of other inujured and homeless? If he needed to 'call them home', why not just let them all pass quietly in their sleep?

      ask him

      May 26, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  10. Jojo

    i'm no atheist!
    I a anti-theist. I'm glad there is no evidence whatsoever that there are gods.

    gods.

    May 26, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • aldewacs

      To a staunch believer, everything looks like evidence.
      The least intelligent are the strongest believers.

      F.A.I.T.H.: "Fear And Ignorance Take Hold".

      May 26, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  11. Jojo

    Nothing fails like prayer.

    May 26, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • aldewacs

      I'm borrowing (stealing?) this line. I like it. Hope you don't mind.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  12. Reality

    "God will give us comfort and solace and hope for the future." Hmmm, based on Moore's tornado history, it is time to get out of town and time to seek solace from something other than a mythical god. And if some stay, hopefully they will rebuild with a basement under their house this time.

    May 25, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
    • saggyroy

      If god wanted to show us something he would make a tornado wipe out an Alaskan town in the idle of a 30 below winter. I guess god is seasonal.

      May 26, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  13. Vic

    Our Hearts & Prayers Go Out To Moore, Oklahoma
    Oklahoma Strong

    May 25, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • Vic

      Our Hearts & Prayers Go Out To Moore, Oklahoma
      Oklahoma Strong

      May 25, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Did you think repeating it would help?

      May 25, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • Vic

      OK, CNN Server does not allow much inline style sheets!

      Too bad! 😥

      May 25, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why is it "too bad"? Do you think the people in OK are reading your posts, you idiot?

      May 25, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Vic

      Okey, CNN computer server does not allow much inline style sheets from online users! The above text was supposed to show in red & blue!

      Too bad! 😥

      May 25, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      @Vic – This is a WordPress blog with very few options as to formatting and it includes a filter that is ridiculous.

      May 26, 2013 at 2:05 am |
    • JJ

      Silly me, I just sent money.

      May 26, 2013 at 7:46 am |
  14. Vic

    h1 { color:#FF0000 }
    h2 { color:#0000FF }

    Our Hearts & Prayers Go Out To Moore, Oklahoma
    Oklahoma Strong

    May 25, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Yeah, very effective. I'm sure all those folks who have lost everything are reading your comment on that computer that survived an F5 tornado and are oh, so grateful you're offering prayers and an organ.

      May 25, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • The real Tom

      By the way, Vicky, what are those numbers in the brackets supposed to mean? Didn't you say you'd got all computer codes and stuff all figgered out? What happened there, Cletus?

      May 25, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  15. Ghostriver Studios

    Reblogged this on Ghost River Studios Blog.

    May 25, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      Oooh, I am impressed.
      You re-blogged this.
      Should you get a medal ?

      May 26, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    May 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Apparently not, if one reads the story. Of course, you can't read, so I guess that's out.

      May 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • as always

      unreal tim is wrong

      May 25, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things
      Prayer changes things

      May 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Well, either I'm wrong or the Schaibles were. Which is it?

      May 25, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • as always

      unreal t hom o
      is always wrong

      May 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm |

    • I think it's a curse. This poor thing is doomed to repeat "Prayer changes things" until it actually does.

      May 25, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • nope

      prayer has always changed things

      May 25, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • the greatest wealth

      is found in prayer

      May 25, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • the greatest loss

      is found in atheism

      May 25, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Poor little troll. You really should not try to interrupt adult conversations, sweetie. It makes you appear rude.

      May 25, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • the greatest loss

      is reading toms bull sh it

      May 25, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • The real Tom

      If mine's "bullsh!t", what are you excreting? You're such a big girl's blouse, honey. Grow up.

      May 25, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's "Tom's bullshit", dummy. Go back to fourth grade. And stay awake this time.

      May 25, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • apparently

      dippy is dippy it thinks an anonymous blog is fine literature i'll call it an ass hole

      May 26, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • One one

      Did prayer help any of the 24 dead as they prayed to god for protection in the face of the approaching storm?

      May 26, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • aldewacs

      Nothing fails like prayer.

      May 26, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  17. Pet Dog

    God came unto me and we sniffed each others anus and he said unto me, it is not your time. Go forth a poop.

    May 25, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
  18. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    It is good to see people putting aside their strange faiths and rituals and getting down to the work of helping people, working together with other people to help people.

    May 25, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  19. Al

    But sometimes there is nothing to say other than “look to the Lord,” said Clarkson, who has already presided at the funerals of three young tornado victims.

    What a joke. If you're going to believe in God then you have to conclude that he either likes dead children, or he simply doesn't give a sh it.

    May 25, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • ed dugan

      They can look all they want but they ain't going to see anything! The "lord" just abandoned OK just to show those folks he's an Aggie fan. Meanwhile all of those religious hucksters called "men of the cloth" go around spouting their BS thinking they are doing some good. Religion sucks!

      May 26, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  20. Hope

    Stay strong , Moore!

    May 25, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Footprints

      “Footprints in the Sand” (Margaret Fishback Powers)

      One night I dreamed a dream.
      I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.

      When the last scene of my life shot before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand. There was only one set of footprints. I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life. This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.

      “Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way. But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don’t understand why, when I need You most, You leave me.”

      He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”

      May 25, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      That's sweet, but you know there are real people who are able to care for you as much as that. Hope you find someone, Footprints.

      May 25, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • JJ

      "When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”

      Lying bastard. Note that the footprints are really your own. Besides, wouldn't you start seeing sandles instead? Grow a brain.

      May 26, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • balm of gilead

      👣 👣

      May 28, 2013 at 2:34 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.