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Tornado Slams Church During Service but All 100 Survive: ‘We Saw a Complete Miracle’

Michael Foust | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: May 13, 2024
Tornado Slams Church During Service but All 100 Survive: ‘We Saw a Complete Miracle’

Tornado Slams Church During Service but All 100 Survive: ‘We Saw a Complete Miracle’

A Pennsylvania pastor is crediting God’s hand of protection after all 100 attendees survived when a tornado slammed into their church building mid-service and damaged the roof and steeple. Members of Crossroads Ministries in Finleyville, Pa., were worshiping Saturday night a few minutes after 6 p.m. local time when the twister passed through town, hitting their building. The pastor’s wife, Rhonda Barner, was singing on stage at the time. In the online broadcast of the service, the camera shakes before the stream abruptly ends.  

“I saw the lights were flickering and I saw they went out,” she told WPXI-11 News. “I thought I heard the windows start to shatter, and then the sound was like a train coming through and more windows were shattering.”   

Attendee Linda Desing described the situation as frightening. 

“We were sitting there singing a hymn and the lights started flickering,” Desing told KDKA. “All of a sudden, one of the windows blew out and everybody ducked for cover. I don't ever want to experience this again; I've thought about what it might be like to be in a tornado, and I don't ever want to experience this again.”

The tornado ripped the roof off the office building and tossed it into the nearby woods. It threw the steeple onto cars. Pastor Ken Barner says God protected everyone. About 100 members and attendees were inside -- some of them babies for a scheduled baby dedication. 

“We saw a complete miracle. The hand of God almighty was upon us,” Barner said during his Sunday sermon the next morning. 

A few people had cuts and bruises, but no one was killed or hospitalized, he added. 

“We’re so thankful for that,” Barner said. “We’re standing on the promises of God right now. … I know that we will get through this.”

He added, “This is just a building. … God is using us as His church.”

Barber read several verses during his sermon, including Psalm 91:1: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

“God protected His children,” Barner said. 

Damage was so extensive that the church canceled in-person services for Sunday morning, limiting them to online. Barber wrote on the church’s Facebook page: “We had about 100 people in church for our service singing praise to God when it hit. We evacuated everyone to the basement and no one was injured. … Please thank God with me that God's hand of protection was on us. Thank You Pastor Ken.”

The National Weather Service said the twister likely was an EF-2 tornado, which means it would have had winds between 111-135 mph.

Photo credit: WPXI-11 News


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.



Tornado Slams Church During Service but All 100 Survive: ‘We Saw a Complete Miracle’