A series of tornadoes tore through parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas late Sunday evening. At least 17 people are reported dead, with many more injured and entire neighborhoods destroyed.
The first twister created an 80-mile path of destruction, starting about 10 miles west of Little Rock Arkansas. It passed through several towns, including Vilonia and Mayflower, which were devastated. Wind gusts reached up to 160 miles per hour. The storm killed at least 16 people in Arkansas.
Another tornado hit down in Quapaw, Oklahoma, where one person died and others were injured. The twister then passed into southeastern Kansas, where it injured at least 25 people and shattered approximately 70 homes in Baxter Springs, Kansas.
According to local Nazarene churches, the storms left behind a trail of destruction, including damage to several church buildings. The Vilonia First Church of the Nazarene’s brand-new building was damaged. The church had just rebuilt after another tornado destroyed its sanctuary and other buildings three years ago. The congregation had worshipped in its new building only twice before yesterday’s tornado hit. Dozens of homes were completely destroyed, including those of several Nazarene families. Kevin Rector, pastor of the nearby Liberty Church of the Nazarene, was among those who lost their homes.
Nazarene Disaster Response staff is currently working with local Nazarene leaders to assess damage and determine long-term response strategies. Immediate needs include shelter, food, water, and clothing for those who lost their homes.
“We encourage the church to be the hands and feet of Christ during these difficult times,” said Jay Height, NCM coordinator for the USA/Canada region.
Prayer is also needed. “We’re asking for prayer for those who are experiencing grief and trauma. We also ask for prayer and support for local churches as they begin the steps of walking alongside community members on a path toward long-term recovery,” said Larry Bollinger, director of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.
Anyone who wants to support local disaster response efforts is encouraged to give online.