Church survives tornado, helps community recover

By John W. Coleman

Tabor UMC in Woxall, PA, (2209 Hendricks Station Road) sustained modest damage and no injuries from the 112 mile-per-hour winds in an E-2-rated tornado that struck May 29; but its community took more of a beating, especially from downed trees and power lines.

“We were at ground zero when the tornado hit,” reported the Rev. Bob Amundsen, pastor. “We were fortunate to have only structural damage and a torn roof on the old section. Our main sanctuary, offices, education wing and the parsonage were unharmed, and no one was injured. But many in our community sustained heavy losses.”

From the parsonage basement next door to the church, Amundsen and his dog Wesley could hear loud hail and trees being ripped from the ground outside by ferocious winds during the downpour. Water poured through their basement windows. “It was all over in about 10 minutes,” he recalled.

When he later met his administrative assistant, Cindy Frick, in the church parking lot before a meeting, they heard loud cracking and saw soaked, uprooted trees falling to the ground but also falling into homes, vehicles and power lines.

“Getting out of here that night was tough,” said Amundsen. “Almost every road was closed due to fallen power lines and trees.”

But church trustees and neighbors rallied when cleanup efforts began over the weekend. “Our trustees and parishioners did an incredible job,” said the grateful pastor. “We had a number of people helping, but four guys in particular—Bruce Stover, Ron Hartman, Mike Neal and Bill Jacobs—put in many hours of labor each day,”

The trustees paid a company $14,000 to remove many trees with its crane. But the church had to cancel worship and other activities. “We lost 14 trees, and are still without electricity, but prayerfully we will be reopened for business next Sunday,” reported Amundsen, referring to Pentecost Sunday, June 8.

In the meantime, “our community needs help.” He has been visiting members and neighbors, and took boxes to help one member clean up after flooding. Referred by his District Superintendent, the Rev. Tracy Bass, Amundsen sought help from conference Disaster Response Coordinator Bob Simcox, who contacted churches in affected areas of Bucks and Montgomery counties last Friday to find out about any damage.

“This is the connection at its best, people coming together to help!” said Bishop Peggy Johnson. “We can do so much more as we support one another for a common cause. Thank God for all these hard working people!”

“It’s amazing how people come together in times of tragedy,” wrote Amundsen in a request for prayers for his church and community. “We had several churches call asking if we could use help: a Mennonite Church, an independent church and New Hanover Covenant UMC offered assistance.”

Visit Tabor UMC’s Facebook page to see more photos of damage in its community.

Note: Bob Simcox reports that this was the second tornado to hit our conference in two weeks. Another struck the Morgantown area. He works with District Disaster Response Coordinators, like the Rev. Myra Maxwell in the East District, who relay information about needs and concerns to their district offices. “This is how it is supposed to work,” said Simcox. He is searching for coordinators for the North and South districts. “We’re all helping to care for our neighbors.”