Tim Ellsworth’s God in the Whirlwind: Stories of Grace from the Tornado at Union University recounts the stories of those students that experienced the EF-4 tornado with winds exceeding 200mph that ripped through Union University in Jackson Tennessee on February 5, 2008.
The forward by David Dockery, the president of Union University says much about how we should see “hope”. He said “Hope is not escapism but it is the energizing motivation for faithful living in the here and now”(pg xi). As one reads the accounts of those that experienced the devastation, yet no loss of life, of the tornado of February 5th one sees this hope exemplified. This work speaks of the providence of God in the protection of people that by all accounts should not have survived and the stories of the individuals revels this as well. Dr. Dockery in speaking on providence said, “God’s providence transcends experiences of men and women” (pg xi).
In Tim’s introduction he shares that these stories are not to lift up the ones telling them but to “exalt an magnify the God sheltered our students under His wings.” This book gives both short insights as well as longer stories of those that were intimately involved in the events of the day. Events that would indelibly reveal God to them in ways they, I would imagine, would have not contemplated the morning of the tornado. God has a way of waking us up from simply assuming His sovereignty to reveal it to us in ways we cannot imagine. The stories shared should not only effect those that were there in Jackson on February 5th but fellow believers should share in the wonder of God through the lives and stories of those touched personally by the storm. I would pray that as you read this book you do not simply file the accounts away as good illustrations but allow them to touch you in a manner that God would intend. When events such as this happen I do not believe God only wants those personally touched to be changed but that He wants the whole body to be changed. Paul’s continual use of the illustration of the people of God being a body should help us see that the experiences you read in this book should touch you as it touched the member of His kingdom many miles away.
I will for the sake of giving a flavor of the book give some thoughts found in the stories you will find in God in the Whirlwind. There are many more than these below but again these reveals the lives of believers faced with the reality of God’s sovereignty which is so often espoused but it is not truly comprehend in al that that entails.
Kevin Furniss asked the question not usually asked by those facing tragedy, why did God allow this to happen to me? But, instead he asked a question that showed an understanding of God’s sovereignty and providence by asking “Why am I still alive? (pg 13)
Danny Song said “Its not about us, It’s not about Union and especially not about me. Its just about God showing Himself to us, an in His mercy and providence, he saw fit that He would reveal His glory that night by saving us.” (31)
Through the events of the storm God revealed Himself to Chris Lean and used the event to bring Chris to faith. (35-40). God also used the tornado to bring Tori Gill’s father to faith (119-123)
God used the events of the tornado to answer Heather Martin’s questions of the validity of her faith (94)
The stories of David Wilson (49-4) and the separate story of his parents (97-102) give a vivid picture of the events of the night of February 5th, 2008 from two different perspectives. One of the victim and the others from his loved ones.
Union President David Dockery summed up for many how God used that night in February with regards to faith and theology, “It moved from theoretical to reality.” (147)
Through these and many other accounts you can easily see that it was nothing short of a miracle that, at least at Union, there was no death since the first thoughts of many was that there had to be people who died as the destruction was so devastating. But from this destruction and the miraculous saving of the students many gained a sense that God had far more for them to accomplish for His glory.
One thing that may be interesting would be to hear some of these same peoples thoughts and how this event changed their lives one year later. As pastor I love to hear how God has worked through what the world sees as “bad” events but I even more enjoy hearing how that change has impacted more than the moment but has extended much farther.
I would encourage you to read this book. I would pray that you would see God’s hand on the events of that night, not simply as a preserver. This was not an event that God only showed up to save people but it was one that He for His glory had ordained to happen to magnify His name, and in these stories it is greatly magnified.