Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tornadoes, And 'The Bell Tolls For Thee'

Those of you who know me understand why I am habituated to keeping up with the news (the real news, or at least the closest we can come to it what with all the pop issues that dominate it).  I naturally tuned in the usual news channel as I prepared to go to work, and listened on the radio on the way in.  The dominant story this morning has been the devastation of the tornadoes that swept through the South and Midwest.

My natural reaction (more than most, with my background) is a reflection that this is another tragedy on a long, constant list of such reminders that life is nasty, brutish, and short, as Thomas Hobbes would describe it.

I certainly don't dwell on each story – I would have little to do besides, considering the multiplicity of such stories, those which merit attention of the press beyond the myriad others.  But the background hum in my mind is that all victims are equal in the eyes of God, who set up the universe and our place in it based on immutable natural laws of His creation, which is the only way that everything can be held together.  All things under God are thus imperfect and have an end commensurate with their beginnings.  We must all function in this world and live with a knowledge that we must overcome the evil wrought by Man and our vestigial animal nature, focused by conscious choice on our relationship with God and how we must live until we are finally brought nearer to Him.

Like many people, stories of this sort continue in like trend until our attention is brought up short by a connection.  As I opened my computer to start my work day, I saw a notice from Family Life, a mission service started up by the impressive Campus Crusade for Christ (now 'Cru').  It gave notice of the death of Rob Tittle, 48, and two of his daughters (Tori, 20, and Rebekah, 14) as a result of the tornado that struck Ferndale, Arkansas.  Rob's family, his wife and nine children, barely had time to huddle in their makeshift shelter under the stairs when the tornado obliterated their house, leaving only the concrete slab.

Surviving daughter Whitney, 19, found shelter soon thereafter where she posted the news on Facebook:
This is Whitney from a friend's house, my mom, and my six brothers/sisters are alright.  We have lost three of our family … Dad, Tori and Rebekah, prayers would be appreciated.  The house is gone stripped from the foundation.  The Lord Gives and the Lord Takes Away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
The surviving Tittles were taken to a nearby hospital, where all but three remain.  Whitney hopes to see her mother soon but had not been able since the night before.

Another Family Life family in nearby Mayflower saw the tornado coming and had time to crowd into their closet/shelter, which held against the storm although the rest of the house was shattered.  Dan and Kristen Gaffney and their six children were then trapped inside the shelter until neighbors, finally alerted, could work for thirty minutes to free them, a situation made all the more expedient by the smell of leaking gas.  When they emerged, they took in the devastation around them which included a car leaning against their shelter.

The large families are indicative of how seriously the parents take their ministry – some of the children are adopted.  One of the Gaffney children understandably lamented the loss but a daughter, 10, with prosthetic legs, responded that they should think upon the good things.

Drawn now to the story, I soon read of a couple which lost their two boys, aged 9 and 7.  This is the worst tragedy to my mind – a parent losing a child.  Nothing can compare to it, though everyone's grief is their own.

I did not know these people personally, only through their ministry.  Yet the news brings home the reminder that although we cannot ceaselessly ponder upon the limitless tragedy that lies around us, we must heed the occasional reminder that Life can change in an instant, and we all live within the shadow of the Tower of Siloam.

A parting word from Whitney Tittle:
Dear friends, Do one thing for me.  Hug your dad.  Hold him tight and don't let go, that man is the greatest gift God gave to you.  Tell him you love him, tell him you will always love him.

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