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Flags fly above what is left of the Mt. Moriah Church in Henryville, Ind.

Photo by Christopher Fryer/News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.
CNHI News Service

Two flags, one American and one Christian, stand erect in the scattered remains of Mount Moriah Baptist Church.

Volunteers search for salvageable books from the church library. A table engraved with the words “this do in remembrance of me” survives, crooked and tattered, above the entry steps. To the right, the parish sign, untouched by the winds and flying debris, asks, “Have you talked to Jesus today?”

In all the devastation, church pastor Terry Lanoue continues to teach the word of God.

Using his house as a makeshift chapel and temporary sanctuary for the 40 plus members of his congregation, Lanoue met with parishioners to share a message of refuge taught in the book of Psalms.

“Though the mountains give way and the earth shake, God is our refuge and strength,” Lanoue said. “That’s what we believe.”

On Friday, Mount Moriah wasn’t just a metaphorical harbor for those fleeing from the coming storms. Knowing the church opened its doors during times of emergency, several parishioners from town outran the tornado and sought haven in the church basement. Only moments after they arrived safely inside, the walls clamored down. After the destruction, all emerged unscathed.

“God’s hand was here," Lanoue said. “He didn’t tell us he’ll deliver us from trouble, but he’s a very present help in trouble. That’s the key. That’s who he is,” Lanoue said.

Only feet away from the broken boards of the church’s peaked roof, pieces of broken tombstones obscure the ground of the church cemetery. Local residents formed the congregation in 1892. In fact, the parents of Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, are buried here. Mount Moriah Youth Pastor Matt Martin said Sanders, a Henryville native, helped restore the chapel after a fire damaged it in the 1960s.

Like Mount Moriah, Martin knows a little something about strife. Only a year and a half ago, Martin said a tornado demolished his hometown of Yazoo City, Miss.

“We may not know why or understand why this happens,” Martin said. “But I believe that God is sovereign. He’s in control and he has a purpose for all of this.”

Once the debris is cleared plans will be made to rebuild the church, he said.

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Details for this story were provided by the News and Tribune in Jeffersonville, Ind.

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