A pastor in Salado, Texas pointed out something truly remarkable after an EF-3 tornado tore through his community last week. A large wooden cross remained in place on the wall, still hanging above the remains of the damaged church building.
Residents are still cleaning up after a tornado barreled through their small community, injuring more than 23 people while flattening 61 homes and destroying two church buildings.
According to the National Weather Service, the tornado was on the ground for at least 30 minutes and with a track that measured 13 miles long. The twister also had maximum wind speeds that reached 165 mph.
The two church buildings, the Cedar Valley Baptist Church and Victory Baptist Church located along FM-2843 were reduced to piles of rubble, according to WFAA-TV.
The television station reported Donnie Jackson, the pastor of the Cedar Valley Baptist Church, wept as he viewed the damage to the church building.
"That was the toughest moment for me," Jackson said.
No one was in the church building when the tornado struck. But one thing did stand out after the storm. The church's large cross was still hanging in the building, WFAA reported. Even though the roof above it had collapsed, the cross still stood high on a wall overlooking the destruction.
"Sometimes you want to question why things like this happen. And then one of the scriptures came to my mind. We know that 'all things work together for good'," Jackson told the station as he quoted part of the New Testament's Romans 8:25, his voice breaking.
"It's still anchored and has not been damaged. What does that tell you?" he said.
On Wednesday, just one day after the storms struck central Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) declared Bell and Williamson counties as disaster areas.
Abbott visited Salado on Saturday and made it a point to stop by the Cedar Valley church to meet Jackson and other church members. By then, the ruins of the church building had been cleared to the concrete foundation.
He later tweeted a video of his visit.
"This is Governor Greg Abbott in Bell County. I'm on the ground in a slab that a few days ago, a church was here. The one thing remaining from the church is this cross," he said. "Around us, you can see rubble from the devastation of what happened to the church."
"The cross survived," he said. "The pastor of this church made clear that the church still survives because the church is far more than just a building. The church is the people who are congregants in that building. The people who are brought together by God himself. So the church physically may be gone. But the church in reality still remains."
Today in Salado, I met with the resilient Texans impacted by Tuesday's tornado & severe storms.
A church stood in this spot a few days ago.
The only thing standing today is the cross.
The church may physically be gone, but the community brought together by God still remains. pic.twitter.com/GckLg82bYE
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 16, 2022
Abbott also held a press conference at the site during which he invited Jackson to speak.
"First of all, governor I want to say how much I appreciate you being here. For your encouragement to us already this morning," Jackson said.
The pastor then explained he gets emotional, not because of the loss, but because of all of the love that had been poured out on their community. He told Abbott he had been in the Salado community his whole life, and how he had been saved in a little church not far from where they were standing.
When talking about the tornado's destruction of the church building, Jackson said he wanted to "make a point about something."
"We had a cross hanging on the wall as you entered in the (church building's) sanctuary between the doors," he recalled. "Everything was destroyed, but that cross wasn't touched."
Then Jackson noted that tomorrow (Easter Sunday), the church "was going to have service on this slab" as Abbott and other Texas officials applauded.
"That building is gone," the pastor continued. "But the church is stronger than it has ever been. And I know that God will help us to build back even stronger than before. Our church body, Brother Billy's church up the road is going to be stronger than it's ever been. And I thank God."
"We going to praise him tomorrow," Jackson added. "We're not going to whine. We're going to praise him. And as we're celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we're going to celebrate the resurrection of a building that's fixing to start to be rebuilt."