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Pastor tearfully recites Bible verse at sight of cross unscathed after tornado rips through church

Cross, Tornado
The cross at First Cedar Valley Baptist Church in Salado, Texas, remains intact after a tornado destroyed most of the church building and caused the ceiling to cave in on April 13, 2022. Most of the rubble that remained of the building has since been cleared out while the cross remains. |

After a tornado ripped through a Texas church last week, only leaving behind a cross that hung on a wall in the sanctuary, the pastor tearfully cited Romans 8:28, declaring that "all things work together for good."

First Cedar Valley Baptist Church in Salado was one of three churches, several homes and buildings destroyed by an EF-3 tornado that ransacked and leveled the area Tuesday with 165 miles per hour winds. 

The Enhanced Fujita Scale, which assigns tornadoes ratings based on their wind speeds, defines an EF-3 tornado as a “strong” tornado with maximum sustained winds ranging from 136 to 165 miles per hour that inflicts “severe” damage. The maximum sustained winds for Tuesday’s storm were just 1 mile per hour away from qualifying for the EF-4 category, a “violent” tornado with maximum sustained winds ranging from 166 to 200 miles per hour that inflicts “devastating” damage.

“The tornado began in Williamson County, but the track in Bell County is estimated to be nearly 13 miles long with a duration of about 30 minutes,” the National Weather Service said in a statement.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued disaster declarations for both Bell and Williamson Counties on Wednesday, one day after the tornado left a path of destruction in central Texas. 

First Cedar Valley Baptist Church was nearly destroyed except for a few walls that barely remained standing amid the rubble and a wooden cross that remains standing at the site of the church that has since been leveled to its foundation. The church’s destruction five days before Easter Sunday did not stop Pastor Donnie Jackson from holding Easter services there.

Abbott joined the pastor and church members Saturday, where he also delivered a message of encouragement. “A few days ago, a church was here,” he said. “The one thing remaining from the church is this cross.”

“The cross survived,” Abbott added. “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 congregate in that building, the people who come together.”

In a press conference Saturday, Jackson elaborated on what he viewed as a miracle from God: “I want to make a point about something. We had a cross hanging on the wall as you entered. In the sanctuary between the doors, everything was destroyed, but that cross was never touched.”

Abbott and the Texas officials gathered at the press conference applauded as Jackson proclaimed: “Tomorrow morning, we’re going to have service on the slab.”

“That building is gone, but the church is stronger than ever, and I know that God will help us to build back even stronger than before,” Jackson said. “In the spirit of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we’re going to celebrate the resurrection” of the First Cedar Valley Baptist Church. 

While much of the rubble that consisted of the church’s remains had been removed from the site by the time of Saturday’s press conference and Sunday’s Easter services, ABC News affiliate WFAA broadcast what the church looked like shortly after the tornado ripped through the central Texas community. The news report showed that the cross that was perfectly intact amid the rubble and caved ceiling and exposed pink insulation that had fallen on top of a chandelier.

“It’s still anchored. It’s not been damaged. What’s that tell you?” Jackson asked. 

“Sometimes you want to question why things like this happen, and then one of the scriptures came to my mind that says: ‘We know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are called to his purpose,’” Jackson said. “I have no idea what God’s purpose is in allowing this to happen, but I know he has one.”

In addition to the tornado that caused the destruction of First Cedar Valley Baptist Church, the storm that passed through Bell County last week produced a large amount of hail. One hailstone had a diameter measuring 5.676 inches at its maximum diameter, nearly breaking the record for the largest hailstone recorded in Texas, which had a diameter of 6.4 inches. 

The damage caused by last week’s tornado extended far beyond First Cedar Valley Baptist Church. In the press conference, Abbott explained that while 70 homes and two additional churches had been destroyed due to the storm, no lives had been lost due to the severe weather. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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