St. Barnabas UMC Damaged as Tornadoes Tear Through North Texas

by Vance Morton*

A powerful spring storm swept through the northern portion of the Central Texas Conference and all of the Dallas-Fort Worth area shortly after lunch Tuesday. The storms spawned at least five reported tornadoes in Arlington and Kennedale, parts of Johnson County and in Lancaster and Mesquite in Dallas County.
While there were no initial reports of severe injuries or deaths from the storm in the Central Texas Conference, early video reports and photos showed a lot of residential and commercial destruction in southwest Arlington. St. Barnabas United Methodist in Arlington was among those to suffer damage due to the storm.
St. Barnabas and conference officials began assessing the situation as soon as the storms cleared the area. According to the last reports received by the CTC communications office, the roof of the church suffered some severe damage, some of the stained-glass windows were blown out and the sanctuary had suffered water damage.
Rev. Laraine Waughtal, Disaster Response Coordinator, Central Texas Conference, reports that the conference is in contact and working with the church and city of Arlington and Tarrant county emergency management organizations to determine the long-term recovery assistance plan. We will keep you posted on if and when the Central Texas Conference Early Response Team is called to assist in the North Texas clean-up efforts.
As in any situation, the biggest immediate need for those affected by today’s storms is your prayers. If you’d like to make a financial contribution to any upcoming relief efforts, you are encouraged to do so through your local church. Fund No. 4495 of the official conference remittance form is for aid, assistance, relief, rebuilding and ministry within the Central Texas Conference. Just reference Fund No. 4495 and/or Disaster Relief on your check. Watch for updates on this situation.
UPDATE 5:15 p.m., April 3:
According to a report received around 5:15 p.m. Tuesday from Larraine Waughtal, CTC Disaster Response Coordinator who is currently at St Barnabas, the damage to the building is very extensive and it is miraculous that no one was injured on the campus during the storm.  No clean-up efforts can begin until after the church’s insurance company completes its assessment. At this time, there will be no Easter services on the St. Barnabas campus, and the staff is looking into alternative location for Easter Sunday and those following until repairs can be completed. Rev. Waughtal plans to attend the St. Barnabas staff meeting in the morning to coordinate how our Conference Disaster Response Team can best assist in the recovery process. She will directly contact our trained disaster responders following that meeting regarding next steps. Please watch continue to watch for updates as the need evaluation process continues
UPDATE 10 a.m., April 4
Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Larraine Waughtal and Central Texas Conference Executive Director for Mission Support Dr. Randy Wild are meeting with the staff at St. Barnabas this morning and following that meeting will liaise with their counterparts in the North Texas Conference to best coordinate relief and rebuilding efforts. We have also heard that the home of St. Barnabas Senior Pastor Dr. Will Cotton suffered damage in the storm. Dr. Cotton is currently recovering from surgery as well, so he must be feeling a bit like Job at the moment. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers as well.
Our brothers and sisters in the North Texas Conference took a much harder hit in terms of property loss than we here in the CTC did (which is hard to fathom when you see the photo to the right of a large tree snapped like a twig and flipped upsided down leaning against a building on the St. Barnabas campus), but we've still not heard of any loss of life. The storms in the Midwest earlier this year really had people on notice and everyone took this quite seriously and followed their emergency preparedness plans it seems.
One story of which we’re just learning from St. Barnabas was that not only were the church's staff in the building but St. Barnabas also has a daycare/school on its campus with 80-85 kids. The pastors, staff and teachers heard the weather reports and emergency siren and could see the rotation coming for them. They implemented their emergency plan, had the kids all huddled in an interior hallway with their heads covered and then laid across them as they heard the walls of the building shaking and the roof of the sanctuary being ripped off.
According to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram report, Amy Richardson, director of the Early Education Center, shepherded 82 children, ranging from toddlers to 5-year-olds, from their classrooms to a safer spot in the middle of the building. "We knew what we had to do. We had a plan for it," Richardson said. "We just waited. We had pastors coming in to tell us when to duck and cover. There was a loud rumbling noise, the walls starting shaking and windows started breaking. "But the kids were very calm. Some of them got upset when the power went out."
Water began to pour into the sanctuary because the tornado had ripped away the roof in another part of the building. But the children were safe. "Our plan worked," Richardson said. "It's nice to have a plan."
Thanks to the preparedness and selflessness of the staff and teacher - and, of course, the grace of God, no injuries from the storm were reported (though one little girl did complain of a bit of a headache from having her pig tails pulled by a boy that thinks she's cute ;-)
Continue to monitor for updates regarding relief and rebuilding plans as soon as that information is available. 
As a reminder, if  you’d like to make a financial contribution to any upcoming relief efforts, you are encouraged to do so through your local church. Fund No. 4495 of the official conference remittance form is for aid, assistance, relief, rebuilding and ministry within the Central Texas Conference. Just reference Fund No.4495 and/or Disaster Relief on your check.
Vance is the director of Communications for the Central Texas Conference.