FROM DAN JONES — If you’ve been listening to Christian radio at all lately, there’s no doubt you’ve heard the song “Strong” by Anne Wilson.

The lyrics talk about putting on a strong face for the world to see, but admitting inside “Dear Lord Jesus, you know I can’t do this on my own.”

On May 21, an EF4 tornado hit Greenfield, Iowa. I had been involved in the clean-up and relief efforts of the tornado that hit Minden, Iowa, two weeks before that.

The Minden tornado was brutal. It ran through the town of about 600 like a blender, chewing up and spitting out homes and businesses and scattering debris over miles.

By contrast, the Greenfield tornado was a giant, vicious monster of a tornado. There was something almost malevolent about it.

This storm was 40,000 feet tall, a mile wide, and had wind speeds of over 300 mph. This is only the third time in known history where a tornado had wind speeds measured that high. Homes and businesses directly in its path were more-or-less vaporized. Buildings slightly off to the side of the epicenter were twisted, shifted, picked up and dropped back down — sometimes ten feet off their foundations.

There were 35 people injured and at least four people died.

The first home I was involved in with relief efforts through GoServ Global was next door to where a couple were killed in that tornado. Their home took a direct hit and they had no basement.

They never had a chance.

On the second morning I was there, as I was standing by the side of the road, I looked down in the gutter and found a Polaroid photo of that couple. Handwriting on the photo said it was taken Easter morning of 1982. The couple was standing behind an Easter Lily.

I did not feel strong standing in the midst of all the debris around me with that photo in my hands.

The truth is, we are not strong. We are tiny, fragile human beings that live and move and breathe and have our being in what is a very narrow band of existence provided by the grace of God. We are, indeed, like lilies of the field — here one day and gone the next.

When officials totaled up the damage, they found the tornado had sliced a mile-long path through the town, damaging or destroying 153 homes and businesses, all in about 60 seconds.

The devastation was heart-wrenching. Families who had built a lifetime of memories in safe and comfortable homes literally found themselves with nothing left and a future with nothing but uncertainty in under a minute.

The shock and trauma is something that will take a long, long time to heal, and they will never forget what happened that day.

Given all that devastation and hurt, it seemed almost surreal that in the midst of all of this, someone was painting red hearts on tree stumps and destroyed homes. At the busiest intersection in town, right where the tornado had gone through, someone made a sign from a piece of tornado debris that said, ” Strong lives here” and the “v” had been turned into a heart.

The words said “strong” but the symbol said “love.”

And that’s the deal. All across our nation, we live our day-to-day lives never thinking much about each other or how close we are to all of that evaporating, even in less than a minute. We are not strong, but real love is. All of the hearts-and-flowers greeting card love in the world means nothing when your whole neighborhood is vaporized in seconds.

But the love of a God who is love, who created us in love to love Him and to love each other, who sent His own Son to die for us in genuine agape love can bring healing and a form of peace that nothing and no one else can.

Wilson’s song is right. We can’t do this on our own, but we know the One who makes us strong.

I am honored and blessed to be a small part of a ministry that brings the love and hope of Jesus Christ to the people of Greenfield and many, many others.

Dan Jones
Freedom Quest Missionary