“Did God save Mapleton, Iowa?” No.

I’ve never seen a tornado in action. Saskatchewan has a few sightings every summer but those that touch ground tend to rip up fields and crops rather than people. There are exceptions but most of the time cities and towns are exempt from displays of their destructive power.

Does this mean God has a special place in his heart for residents of this province? Hardly. Our million or so people are spread out across the equivalent area of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas and little ole Iowa. How populated are all those states? Plus, Saskatchewan is far enough north so weather conditions rarely get to a point that will generate the storms that birth tornadoes, compared to all those states I named that just happen to fall in the geographic area nicknamed “Tornado Alley.”

Tornadoes aren’t aimed and they can’t be guided. They don’t have brains or ambition or malice. They just do what they do and it doesn’t matter what might be on the ground in front of them. They land or they don’t. They shred houses or they veer off. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to any of it, which is what makes the study of tornadoes so important.

Last year the largest ever tornado study got underway with the intention of trying to work out what characteristics in a storm are mostly likely to cause them. Hopefully all the technical work done by the VORTEX2 teams resulted in a lot of useful data. The site states that current warning systems only provide a 13 minute window and most of those calls wind up being false alarms anyway. Longer, more accurate warnings would go a long way toward making sure people can get somewhere safe.

Which brings me to today’s article. A tornado struck Mapleton, Iowa on April 9th and the three churches in town just happened to be buildings not heavily damaged. According to witnesses, the twister “skipped right over the top of St. Mary’s Church” and they all seem convinced that they experienced a miracle in action. Gene Kaderabek, co-elder at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, certainly thinks so. While he credits the police for tracking the storm and alerting the townsfolk in time,

“It was a true miracle no one was even hurt seriously,” Kaderabek said, noting there were more incidents and accidents after the tornado left town, with people running around in the dark and hurting themselves. “I mean, the good Lord, he prepared us and he was watching over us.”

Watching people run around in the dark hurting themselves, but not actively moving shit out of their way or guiding their paths so they wouldn’t injure themselves by accident. Yes, miracles abounding there. Yeesh.

While some folks may attribute the lack of fatalities to luck, don’t tell that to the Rev. Karen Garrison, pastor of St. John’s Methodist Church.

“I don’t believe in good luck,” she said. “I believe that God takes care of all of us. And it has to be because God was protecting us. There were some incredible stories about people who were hiding in ditches, underneath shelters, out in cars, and nobody got hurt. That was wonderful. That was a miracle.

“Somebody said that they were wanting Lent to be different this year. They were wanting it to be special this year in a way that it never had before. And this Lent is full of mercy. We’ve seen the mercy of God.”

But not mercy enough for God to have moved the tornado far enough away from town in the first place. Clearly this is something a god can’t do. Hardly that, I’m sure they’d argue. God could have, but he didn’t, because a really important lesson had to be learned!

As for the future, Garrison predicts Mapleton will experience the rebirth epitomized by the Easter story.

“As you go around town, you can see little tiny places that are just completely free of rubble,” she said. “And you might see a flower coming up. You might see trees starting to bloom. You see babies and … a lot of interesting things. The town is not dead. The town is alive. And the people, their attitude is alive. There aren’t too many people whose attitude is really down. They’re going to make it together.

“And I think that’s’ rebirth. I think it’s rebirth of the town and coming back to God and celebrating. It will be exciting to see how Easter turns out this year as we celebrate the rebirth of Christ.”

God’s in the tornado

Just as God is proverbially found in every wartime foxhole, Garrison sees Him in the tornado

Apparently God thinks it’s a lot more fun to teach a lesson via destruction like this, or other injuries and near-fatalities.

“God was definitely here because he took his finger and went like this,” Kaderabek said, his hand squiggling in the air, mimicking the uneven path of the twister which spared much of the town. “He sort of veered it off.”

Oh, I apologize for being wrong. God gave them the finger, but in a good way. Good grief.

It’s great that the town wasn’t completely trashed by the storm. It’s great that the community wants to come together and be joyful that they escaped serious harm. Terrific terrific. But I’m sure I’m not the only one put off by their “We’re special!” attitude, like God picked them specifically to live through a modern day Noah’s ark scenario.

They’re no more special than anybody else who’s survived the same.

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