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Another Update Regarding Southern Indiana

See below for a further update from Susan McGhee regarding the work and ministry that continues with our brothers and sisters south of us:

Dear Friends,

I wish that I could have been in every house of worship in our presbytery this morning; I am certain that the gospel was proclaimed with conviction and wisdom and compasion and faith and hope and love in every place.

It was my privilege to be with the flock of Henryville Community and Mt Lebabnon churches this morning. The Community church was heavily damaged, so we worshipped together at Mt Lebanon. Clerk of Session Marianna Dietrich had the church warm and welcoming when I arrived.  She was a sight for sore eyes - and so was her sister clerk, Janet Mullins of Henryville Community!  And so were, of course, all who came for worship this morning. Most had suffered damage to their homes, many severe damage. Some have lost their homes entirely. But they came.  Our "new best friends" from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance greeted the worshippers. "We are here because your presbytery has asked us to come. We are here to help you remember that out of chaos comes hope."

As is the habit at Mt Lebanon, we opened worship with a hymn sing. Among the hymns chosen by the congregation was "Count Your Blessings." And indeed, they did. The message this morning came from Alex Becker, a seminary student from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. His message was short, and sweet, and scriptural. I found myself giving thanks for our Presbyterian seminaries, for those who teach and those who learn. Alex has learned well, and he taught me a thing or two about preaching in a time of such disaster.   Communion was not on the schedule for the morning, but I asked the Mt Lebanon Session during the announcements if they would approve the celebration of the Lord's Supper. It was hard to say no when the Table had already been spread! Following worship, we took a group photo:




And following the photo opp, we enjoyed a time of fellowship.  Then PDA volunteers and I headed to Henryville. Janet and Ron Mullins took us to the church. I knew that things would be diffiicult, but I could not be prepared for what I saw (these pictures have been shared with the clerk's permission):

 c       devastation in the Henryville sanctuary       devastation in the Henryville sanctuary


In addition to the devastation in the sanctuary itself, most of the windows had been blown out, and a good section of the roof was missing.  I took the picture below from within the sanctuary, looking out on the community:



And just across the street from the church is the school that many of us have seen on national television. What follows are photos of the parking lot and school itself. I imagine that the school serves as a constant reminder of how devastating it would have been for that community to have lost all of its children. It was a sobering sight to see:

       

As we drove out of Henryville, I was well aware of the many residents who remain behind, continuing to pick up the pieces of their homes and their lives. And I thought of the other communities in southern Indiana (eleven counties in all) that have been afftected by what has been one of the worst string of tornados in history.  And I thought of faithful pastors and people caring for one another in the midst of it all.  And I thought of all of you throughout our presbytery, who are supporting those affected in so many ways.

Soon you will be given more opportunities to help. As I mentioned in my earlier update, Mike and Jean Beaver have agreed to serve as our Disaster Response Coordinators. Their training begins tomorrow, and will include a visit to Henryville. Mike and Jean, of course, are well aware of the devastation in their part of our presbytery; Friday and Saturday Mike was busy checking in with his flock at Nabb, many of whom have lost so much.

Stay tuned for more updates, including specific invitations to help. There will be plenty of work for all of us! In the meantime, I hope that I'll see many of you at our Assembly in Martinsville this coming Thursday. We'll be using the communion ware that was rescued from the Henryville Community Church in worship that day. The Council has authorized that the offering be designated for tornado relief in our Presbytery, and we will tithe this gift to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. And if you prefer to give to PDA directly, you may do so by visiting http://gamc.pcusa.org/give/DR000015/.   In addition, I received word from Second Presbyterian Church in Indianpolis today that a gift in the amount of $10,000 has been authorized to help with tornado relief.  And Stated Clerk Larry Jackman has requested a $10,000 grant from PDA, which will come directly to our presbytery to aid in relief efforts.  Offers of hep continue to come from the Presbyterian Center and from the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery; thank goodness all the bridges are now open between Kentucky and Indiana!  And I suspect that this is just the beginning, as we and those who love us open hearts and hands and wallets....

A few last requests: 1) If you have pictures and/or updates of the other communites that have been affected by the storms, please forward them to me, and I will include them in an upcoming release.  2) I ask that you remember the pastors in our number who will be presiding at funerals this week; I know of Beth Walden-Fisher, Katrina Peckich-Bundy and Michelle Bartel.  3) Don't forget to breathe, hug someone you love, and pray and pray again.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: In life and in death, and in all the circumstances of life, we belong to God. And we belong to each other. Thanks be to God for these blessed connections.

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