When you get to Wadena, you have to stop and look. The power of the tornado is amazing, even more amazing is that no one lost their life. At the time of our visit 238 homes were declared uninhabitable (destroyed). Many other homes were badly damaged but could be repaired. Only days after the event, most of the people we spoke with told us that they were fine and if you could help someone else help them. Shock still reigned and yet people were resilient and in good spirits. On the lot of one destroyed home, a group of teenagers set up a volley ball net and began to play.
The house pictured above has painted on it, "God is good all the time," and "God saved my family. We were in here!" This seems to reflect the sentiment of the community -- while the damage is great, things could have been much worse. For instance, a sheriff deputy told us that on the day the tornado hit Wadena, the town had scheduled a parade at 7 PM; the tornado hit at 5 PM. Had the tornado hit two hours later the loss of life would have been greater. If the tornado had shifted four blocks over, it would have gone through downtown.
Saint John Lutheran Wadena
Damaged Parish Hall
Sanctuary Roof Damaged, Saint John Wadena
Pastor Stephen Meltzer, explains how the tornado affected his church members
Saint John Lutheran Church, Wadena, MN, sat just north of the major tornado damage. The church itself did not escape damage, having a portion of its roof blown off. Pastor Steven Meltzer said that nearly 100% of his members are affected by the tornado (that is suffering moderate to major damaged) and that probably 50% of them have lost their homes. Saint John's Lutheran Wadena held service Sunday morning after the tornado, where Pastor Meltzer said, "This storm is not the result of God's wrath."
In a cemetery across from the church stands a crucifix amidst fallen grave stones, destroyed trees, and buildings. This sight reminded me of the crucifix standing in the ruined cathedral in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake. At first it seemed rather surprising to see a crucifix standing amidst the destruction, yet it really is not. For in the midst of life's greatest tragedy -- death -- the cross of Jesus remains, for he passed through death to life first for us. Among fallen gravestones, the cross of Jesus stands, for he shall call us and raise us from the dead in our bodies on the Last Day. This is the great hope we have. In this life, we live under the shadow of the cross (theology of the cross).