On February 28th my family and I arrived in Branson, Missouri. I was scheduled to speak to the Wesleyan pastors and spouses at the Tri-State District Retreat.
That night we went to dinner, looked at all the theaters, restaurants, and amusement activities that are up and down Highway 76, the main road through Branson. As we headed to dinner, we talked about some of the interesting places we needed to visit the next day.
That evening my family headed to the pool. We played Marco Polo, shark and minnows and all those games kids love to play. It was an ordinary night.
About 1:00 AM on February 29th, our day was about to become extraordinary. I awoke to the sound of hail. My son woke up also and said he heard tornado sirens. In just a few minutes the hotel went black, and we heard an unbelievably loud sound…the sound of fierce winds. Suddenly things were being blown past the outside of our room. We could hear the banging of things being bounced off the walls. People in the hotel were moving to the stairwells for cover. We stayed in our room but all of us were ready to move in an instant. The terrible wind lasted about five minutes and then changed to rain. The storm was extremely powerful but it was quick.
In the morning we could finally see the results of an F2 tornado. The courtyard of our hotel was wrapped in building insulation and pieces of drywall…not from our hotel but from other buildings.
Across the street one hotel had few, if any, windows remaining. They had all been blown out by the storm and much of the roof was peeled back. Another hotel lost most of one wall. The plumbing was exposed and visible from the street. Much of their roof was gone. Huge buildings had broken windows and missing roofs. There were piles of rubble from the buildings…bricks, pieces of roofing, wood. Live power lines were on the ground or caught in the rubble. The town had no power.
The police department immediately had blocked off entrances to the town. Nobody could get into town and the police were closely watching those leaving town and trying to keep folks off the streets. I had a chance to talk with two of the Branson officers. They were wonderful men who were trying to keep everyone safe and protect the vulnerable, damaged buildings.
So what’s the lesson in this? All around us was devastation but our hotel didn’t appear to have any damage…a hotel that housed pastors and their wives who were praying through the storm. The one oasis in a sea of damage. Coincidence? Maybe. God’s protection? That has my vote.