It was a good day for those handling cadaver dogs sniffing through the wreckage strewn across the Cedar Crest area of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
They didn’t find any bodies.
It was also a good day for the young couple getting married at First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa. They still had a sanctuary for their ceremony.
A dozen or so other churches in the area were badly damaged.
According to Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox, “We were hammered. At last count 45 people have died (in our community), 990 people have been injured, and more than 6,000 homes were destroyed.”
But as he met with Franklin Graham in City Hall on April 30, the mayor found fresh hope in a shared prayer.
“I hope your visit will alert people all over the world to pray for Alabama,” the mayor told Graham. “Your visit is going to lift a lot of hearts and souls in this city.”
After flying over Tuscaloosa to get a big picture view of the devastation and meeting the mayor, Graham greeted First Baptist Church Pastor Gil McKee, whose facility is hosting Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and approximately 450 Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.
Graham and McKee walked together through some of the hardest hit areas of Tuscaloosa, offering comfort to bewildered homeowners and encouraging scores of volunteers.
“I am here to tell people that God has not abandoned them or forgotten them,” said Graham. “We are here to help people pick up the pieces of their lives.
“It’s almost impossible for a homeowner to go through a ruined house by themselves and salvage anything,” Graham said. “It’s damaged, and a homeowner just looks at it and says, ‘What do you do?’ We just want to minister to them and love them. A lot of people in this area are poor and don’t have insurance, and if somebody doesn’t try to help them, everything they have is lost.”
The death toll across the South has reached 337, making the twisters the second most deadly in U.S. history.
Graham estimates the Rapid Response Team and Samaritan’s Purse will be on the ground in Alabama approximately six months.
“I pray that this community comes out of this stronger and more united than ever before,” he said. “Tornadoes are the most destructive disasters. They hit neighborhoods like atomic bombs.”
But even in the worst storms of life, said Graham, each and every person can find hope in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
To find out how you can help, visit our special disaster response page »
Do You Need God’s Love in Your Storms?
Follow the Steps to Peace online to learn about Jesus or recommit your life to Him.