MB church members volunteer after Omaha tornado

Tornadoes tear through Nebraska, Iowa in late April

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This house, occupied by a family with two elementary school students, was destroyed by a tornado in Waterloo, Neb. FBC Pastor Stephen Stout joined 50 volunteers to aid cleanup, cutting up blown-over trees in preparation for burning. “Their home seems similar to the hundreds of other homes we have seen on the news that were destroyed,” Stout says in an email to the congregation. Photo: Stephen Stout.

Mennonite Brethren in Omaha, Nebraska, are unscathed after 19 tornadoes touched down in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa on Friday, April 26, causing one death in Iowa and widespread damage, according to the National Weather Service.

Five of the tornadoes received an EF-3 rating, reaching peak wind speeds between 145 and 165 miles per hour.

Notable damage occurred along a path from northeast of Lincoln, Nebraska, through Waterloo and Elkhorn about 20 miles west of downtown Omaha and on into Iowa, leaving nearly 10,000 customers without power in Omaha and the surrounding area, according to an AP News report.

At this Waterloo, Neb., home, Stephen Stout helped cut up blown-over trees to be hauled away to burn. “They were burning everything they could including much of their furniture that was destroyed,” Stout says. “It seems so many have amazing survival stories. We all felt so blessed to help.” Photo: Stephen Stout.

One tornado hit Omaha’s Eppley Airfield three miles northeast of downtown, destroying four hangar buildings contained 32 privately owned aircraft but not affecting the passenger terminal, according to an April 27 Facebook post from the airfield. No injuries were reported, and, after a temporary closure during and immediately after the storm, the airport is now open and operational.

As of Tuesday evening, May 7, the CL had heard from three of Omaha’s four MB churches, who each report that members of their congregations are safe. Individuals are helping with cleanup and providing other assistance.

Yanira Lopez, who with her husband, José Guerra, pastors Iglesia Manantial de Agua Viva, reports that the congregation was unaffected by the storm and is donating Wal-Mart gift cards for affected families.

One Stony Brook Church family lives near an area of impact, but everyone is safe, according to church administrator Melissa Hanna. Several members of the congregation participated individually in cleanup.

Meanwhile, two members of the Faith Bible Church congregation helped with cleanup for a family whose home was destroyed in Waterloo, Nebraska, and a handful of others served in Blair, Nebraska, including one individual with “Operation Blessing.”

FBC Pastor Stephen Stout and two others volunteered with Omaha Rapid Response, joining 250 others to assist with cleanup at a couple’s farm near Blair, about 25 miles northwest of downtown Omaha.

A tornado leveled this house near Blair, Neb., where a 71-year-old woman survived the storm trapped under a couch. Faith Bible Church member Josiah Dale helps with cleanup at the farm as one of 250 Omaha Rapid Response volunteers. Photo: Stephen Stout.

Stout talked with the couple who live on the farm, and they shared their story. When the tornado hit, the wife was home alone while her husband underwent heart surgery in Omaha. The tornado threw the 71-year-old woman off the couch, and the couch landed on top of her, shielding her from the storm. She had her phone and called 911, Stout says.

“Despite losing nearly everything, they truly seemed to be the happiest people there,” Stout says. “They told me with great joy how their trust was in Christ, as their beaming smiles seemed to continue all day.”

An April 29 report from Mennonite Disaster Service reports that MDS is monitoring conference calls from FEMA and the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to determine the extent of the damage, as well as working with local Emergency Management Agencies to assess damage and needs. MDS is accepting donations to help support storm victims. For more information, visit https://mds.org/story/2024-spring-tornadoes-plains-states/.

A tornado leveled this house near Blair, Neb., where a 71-year-old woman survived the storm trapped under a couch. Photo: Stephen Stout

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