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March 2, 2013

SAVING GRACE: Mt. Moriah Church members credit faith for helping them survive lost building

UNDERWOOD — Out past Clark County State Forest on a cold Sunday morning, singing could be heard coming from the walls of Country Lake Christian Retreat.

For more than two months, the parishioners from Mt. Moriah Church in Henryville have been meeting at this place to hear the gospel and find comfort in its message. As they stood, they sang a song about a road marked with suffering, a line all too many of them could identify with.

On March 2, 2012, an EF-4 tornado leveled Mt. Moriah Church and houses along Henryville-Otisco Road. Although the building was reduced to rubble, the storms failed to destroy the faith of those who attend the little country church. Members turn to God for help dealing with the lingering obstacles of that fateful day and church pastor the Rev. Terry Lanoue continues to minister to them.

“There are so many things that happen in life that we ask why they happened,” he said. “While we go through the trials of life, we shouldn’t take our eyes off the Lord because he is always faithful and his mercy is renewed every morning. We walk by sight, and he asks us to walk by faith. When you can’t see his hand, you trust his heart.”

Trusting in a higher power is something the congregation has had to do quite a bit this past year. Construction on Mt. Moriah’s third sanctuary hasn’t always gone quite as planned. The engineer overseeing the building plans died midway through their implementation, forcing the church to find someone new.

In the interim, the church met in a donated tent near the building site. Only a week before the first snow of the year, the congregation moved temporarily to Country Lake, where they remain.

The congregation will meet this week to discuss new additions to the already larger complex in Henryville. Lanoue wants to incorporate some outdoor and other sporting activities for children and their parents on their 20-acre lot. With luck, the church should be finished and ready for use by this summer.

Since the storms, numerous individuals and organizations have donated to the church. Lanoue said a woman in Elizabethtown, Ky., sends a $100 check to the church almost every month. Likewise, gift cards and monetary donations have enabled the small parish to accomplish more of its goals.

“Negative events oftentimes have a way of bringing people closer together,” Associate Pastor Matt Martin said. “As a small church, you’re not able to have some of the resources available, but now we do and I feel like we’re making a huge impact for the gospel in our community.”

For the members of the church themselves, a building isn’t necessary for them to feel God’s presence.

Congregant Carol Adams experienced the full force of the tornadoes as she took shelter in the office of Henryville Elementary School a year ago today. As the school secretary, she had been taking phone calls from concerned parents about the emerging storms most of that day.

Immediately before the big tornado hit, she noticed a man dressed all in white painter’s clothes at the front counter.

“I finally got time to stand there and look at him and he was wringing his hands and he said, ‘I don’t want to go through another one of these’. He said, ‘I’d been through one and I don’t want to go through another one’. And with every ounce of my being, I said to that man ‘You’re going to be fine. You’re going to get in this bathroom with us. You’ll be fine,’” Adams said. “I know that guy was put there by the Lord. I know he was for me to take care of.”

While in the bathroom seeking shelter, the people prayed that they and their town would be saved. All 30 survived without any major injuries. Once they emerged from the wreckage, Adams said an Indiana State Police trooper was shocked to see they could walk away.

Yet, through the whole ordeal and even throughout the recovery, Adams said she experienced a surprising calmness.

“Peace just came over me. I just know the Lord was right there,” she said. “There were so many people from all over the United States praying for us that we didn’t even know was praying for us. And I know that’s why I felt peace. I know it is. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

Even a year after the destruction, congregants still pray for their church and the town of Henryville. Adams said amid the devastation she has seen goodness in a myriad places.

“It’s been an experience, but it’s been a good experience. So many people you found out are so good. People from all over the United States came to our town, came to our rescue,” she said. “If you didn’t have faith, you should now.”

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