MURFREESBORO, Tenn. By all accounts, Judy Reed and her 14-year-old daughter Tori should not be alive.
The two were at home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Good Friday, April 10, along with two of Tori's friends, when a tornado demolished the house.
The day started routinely enough for the Reed family. Tori was out of school and had invited two friends over. Judy, off from work, went to a Good Friday lunch at her church. Her husband Brian had gone to work in Nashville.
Shortly before the luncheon began, Reed received a call from her neighbor, letting her know tornado warnings had been issued for Murfreesboro and Rutherford County. Reed immediately headed home. The girls had already gathered in a closet, ready with their pillows, blankets and a television to monitor the storm.
Reed joined them in the closet.
Within 10 minutes the electricity went off. "We were sitting in a dark closet, singing 'You Are My Sunshine,'" Reed laughs. "Then we heard the freight train sound."
Reed began praying aloud for God's protection. They heard a horrible wind sound, along with ripping wood.
The mother and three teenage girls were lifted about four feet from the floor and "pushed" by the wind to another location in the house.
"We landed in the same formation, side by side, as we were in the closet," Reed said.
The three girls basically escaped with scratches. Reed, however, felt her back break.
The girls were able to climb out of the debris. One of them flagged down two men in the neighborhood who came to their aid. One of the men was a neighbor Reed had never met. He immediately began praying for Reed.
An ambulance finally was able to navigate the debris in the neighborhood and take Reed to a local hospital. Two days later, she had surgery on her broken back. A vertebra had been shattered in her lower back. Her ribs, sternum and collarbone also were fractured.
Looking back on that Good Friday and the pain she endured, Reed noted, "It was still nothing, compared to what Christ endured." She added: "I can understand better in just a small way of what physical suffering really is."
Church meets physical and emotional needs
The Reeds have lived with Robert and Susanne Adams, members of Third Baptist Church and friends, since the storm. Another church family, Steve and Catherine Sadler, are preparing a house they own for the Reeds to use until they purchase or build a new home.
Numerous others came forth after the tornado to help sort through debris for anything salvageable. In addition, food was brought to the family every night for several weeks.
The experience has given Reed a new appreciation for the importance of a church family. "I feel sorry for people who don't have that," she said. "Our church family has been the biggest blessing. You don't realize what a blessing they are until you go through something like this and you have to draw on their strength and hospitality."
Reed also is grateful for other members of the body of Christ who have rallied around her family.
"We have to have Christian friends to help us during those tough times," she said. "We are constantly getting cards and messages from people all over the country, telling us that their church or Sunday School class is praying for us. We even received monetary gifts from people we hardly know or don't know at all, but they are fellow Christians who have been led to bless us in that way."
The tornado has not been the only difficulty the Reed family has faced within the past year.
In addition to losing her home and nearly her life, Reed also lost her job late last year. She found a new job in February but has given it up because of the lengthy recovery she faces.
And the family has been dealing with health issues for Tori after her diagnosis with epilepsy last summer.
Scripture makes an impact
Reed said she has relied heavily on Scripture to help her in the aftermath of what has happened to her and her family. She has especially been drawn to her favorite passage, Jeremiah 29:11-14 "For I know the plans I have for you ... plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
"Twenty-one years ago, someone showed these verses to me during a difficult time in my life. Although I had been raised in church and had read many Scriptures, I did not remember ever reading these particular verses," she said. "Since then I have claimed these promises over and over and have shared them with others during difficult times.
"Although we survived a physical disaster, our lives are not a disaster," she said. "We do have a future and a hope."
Reed still looks at the photos of her destroyed house, which was only about a half-mile from another house in Murfreesboro where a woman and her baby were killed.
"Every time I see those pictures I realize it is a miracle that we are alive," she said. "Every day I wonder why we were spared."
While she can't answer that question, she is quick to praise God.
"God has already used this experience for His glory. When telling anyone about our experience, I always give Him the glory and praise for bringing us through this alive," she says. "I don't know what He has in store for us down the road, but I know, without a doubt, there is a definite reason."
Out of the experience, one of her daughter's friends has accepted Christ as her Savior.
"That alone is worth it for me," Reed said.