Forty preschoolers and 10 staff members were in Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Paducah, Kentucky, when a tornado struck, tearing off the church’s roof and damaging nearly every room in the building. The staff guided the children to an inner, concrete room and helped them to stay calm by having them sing “Jesus Loves Me” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Remarkably, no one was hurt.
“The almighty hand of God has provided safety to our community,” said Sheriff Matt Carter to the West Kentucky Star. “This could have been an extremely high fatality rate, and we’re very fortunate and blessed.” While the storm did some significant damage to the area, only one minor injury was reported.
The Storm Strikes
Baptist Press says the tornado struck around 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 14, and covered about five miles. The twister caused significant damage not only to the church but also to several other buildings in the area. You can see photos of the damage done to the church building courtesy of WPSD News here and a video from Fox 17 News of the wreckage inside the church here:
Inside Mt. Zion Baptist Church.. the pastor says “We are just rejoicing in the Lord.” @FOXNashville pic.twitter.com/RfjokfgfVN
— Nicole Johnson Fox17 (@NicoleReporting) March 15, 2019
The roof is missing, debris is strewn everywhere, and the church’s sign is aslant. The room the children were in was the only one in the building that was not damaged during the storm.
“Even if no one was hurt, but the roof had been ripped off while those kids were in there, it would have traumatized them,” Senior Pastor Wes Connor told Fox 17.
WPSD reports that McCracken County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Wilcutt was in his car while the tornado was passing. He saw trees and power lines being uprooted and debris flying around him. All he could do was crouch down in his vehicle, which the tornado spun as he “prayed for the best.” The West Kentucky Star reports that the only known injury from the tornado, a small cut, was sustained by James Gardner, when the twister lifted a grain bin and wrapped it around his truck, flipping him over.
The storm did destroy some residences and seriously damaged others. One man who remained in his house during the tornado told WPSD that it lifted his barn a foot off the ground. Several roads had to close because of downed power lines and debris, and more than 5,300 homes lost power. Once the tornado was gone, winds remained high, so anyone walking outside in that area risked being hit by flying debris.
Life Is Precious, God Is Faithful
The church has already begun rebuilding and is continuing to hold classes and services in its Family Life Center. The preschool will likely reopen later in the week, but will be held in the gym.
Preschool director Michelle Rushing believes that God protected the staff and children. She also says that the experience emphasized to her how precious the children and life in general are.
“Church is not a building, church is the people,” Pastor Conner told Fox 17. “Buildings can be rebuilt, and frankly God is going to get us through this…we as a church family we are going to rally together.”