Stirred, but not Shaken4 min read

Lutherans Respond to Dexter Tornado Aftermath

It wasn’t expected. Fortunately, the tornado alarm forewarned Village of Dexter residents, giving them enough time to look for shelter. But this was not the case for the people in Dexter Township; they could not hear the alarm. When the tornado rumbled through on Thursday, March 15, it left behind a path of destruction. Over 200 homes were damaged. Another two dozen or so were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. One thousand plus trees were uprooted or torn apart. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that no one was hurt, and no lives were lost. That was an unexpected miracle. Six houses of Peace, Ann Arbor members were damaged by the storm, but still able to be occupied. People from the Dexter Community and surrounding area have rallied to help those affected. Peace, the Michigan District, Lutheran World Relief, and Lutheran Church Charities are all part of the relief and recovery effort.

On Friday, the day after the storm, members of Peace were out in their communities helping those in need. One Peace family with three small children had a window blown out that shattered in their family room. Another Peace family went to their house and hand-washed the glass splinters off the children’s toys. Youth from the church, who did not have school that Friday because of the tornado, went into the area helping where they could.

Pastor Tim Hetzner (Lutheran Church Charities) and Pastor Don Neuendorf (St. Paul, Ann Arbor) joined Peace efforts the day after the tornado struck. Together, they were able to quickly disburse financial assistance to those in need. One recipient was a family of four struggling to keep their home because the father was laid off of work. Peace received a $5,000 grant from LCMS World Relief to help meet immediate needs, assist with the cleanup project, and provide funds to help pay insurance deductibles and other uncovered expenses. Some people are underinsured while others were uninsured as a result of recent job losses. Peace members are using the donations they receive to assist their friends and neighbors.

On the Sunday after the Dexter tornado, the Sunday school lesson was about Jesus calming the storm at sea. The teachers reminded their students that the winds still obey the Lord and that God kept people safe from the storm. Worshippers were reminded that God loves all of His children and that He can make good things come after a disaster happens. That afternoon, members from Peace brought chain saws to remove broken trees from one member’s property, making room for a construction crew to replace his roof and gutters.

Peace members were joined by St. Paul, Ann Arbor members and Concordia University Ann Arbor (CUAA) students to help clear property and cut, split, tack wood, and shred branches and limbs in Dexter Township. Peace rented a chipper/shredder to help with the cleanup project. A CUAA graduate living in the Chicago area traveled with two of his Lutheran high school students to assist in the recovery efforts. After the cleanup day, Peace received a thank-you note from a Dexter Township resident. It read: “Thanks so very much for coming over to Westwind to help out with the storm cleanup. We are truly blessed to have outstanding American’s in our community. The Lord will remember you all!”

Jesus tells us that whatever we do for others, we do for Him. He also says, “… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The greatest miracle that can happen as a result of the Dexter Tornado is when the community sees God’s people at work, receives His love through them, and gives God all the praise and glory.

Family Fun Day

The members of Peace continue to help restore Dexter. Part of that effort included a Family Fun Day on May 6. Under the theme “Stirred but not Shaken,” the community joined the members of Peace in games, inflatables, arts and crafts, and a catered gourmet meal. Dexter’s Little League and School Coaches softball game was also held. There was plenty of time to reflect, relax, and enjoy refreshments. The weather was perfect and over 175 people attended. Later in the same month, members delivered filled flower pots to lift spirits and brighten the days of those directly affected by the tornado. Congregation members wish to express their thanks to the District churches for their support that enabled them to provide service and reach out to their neighbors.

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About the Author

Rev. Larry Courson serves as pastor at Peace, Ann Arbor.

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