In the wake of a tornado that tore through southern Mississippi Feb. 10, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has deployed two National Response Teams to Hattiesburg, where a church and the Presbytery of Mississippi office have been damaged. No lives were lost; about 80 people were injured and hundreds of homes were destroyed or damaged.

The office of the Presbytery of Mississippi was blown off its foundation and moved six feet. Westminster Presbyterian Church lost its roof and experienced other damage to its building.

The response teams will stay in Hattiesburg for at least a week, working with local leaders to assess the damage and provide support.

In an email, the Rev. Steve Ramp, pastor of Westminster, called Feb. 12 “the worst and the best day I can remember as a pastor.” Westminster’s building is badly damaged, with water, trees and books everywhere. But dozens of members and volunteers have worked to clear away the wreckage and safely store the church’s organ, marimba and grand piano.

“I don’t hear anyone saying, ‘Why is God doing this to us?’ I hear people saying, ‘God is sending us angels and love and support,’” Ramp said.

Westminster worshipped with a nearby United Methodist church on Ash Wednesday and will meet there on Sundays until its own building is ready.

 “The pastor and the presbytery exec both have been deeply moved with the number of people who have come to help with clean up,” said Bill Branch, National Response Team leader.

PDA is also monitoring a fire in Honey Grove, Texas, in which the historic Main Street Presbyterian Church burned down Feb. 10. The fire is thought to be the result of a lightning strike.

PDA encourages people to stand in the GAP after a disaster through giving, action and prayer. Learn more on the PDA webpage.