Mississippi Survivors Prayed Their Way Through the Storm

April 6, 2023 • United States

Volunteers from all over the country served in Mississippi communities that were completely devastated by the March 24 tornadoes.

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At nightfall on Friday, March 24, deadly tornadoes in Mississippi left a trail of widespread damage—trapping families in the rubble of their homes, ripping off roofs, and taking the lives of 26 people. An EF-4 tornado left Rolling Fork, home to Josephine Turner and her family, completely unrecognizable.

Josephine, 86, woke up Friday night to her daughter shaking her and saying, “There’s a storm coming, Momma. We don’t have time to get in the closet, but let’s pray.”

As Josephine’s daughter shielded her mom with her body, the windows in the house shattered and glass flew everywhere. “It hit—it hit because I could feel it, the glass coming down over my head,” Josephine said.

The group gathers for prayer around Josephine Turner (in pink).

The group gathers for prayer around Josephine Turner (in pink).

Josephine and her daughter saw the roof of her home, where she’s lived for the past 40 years, lift off of the walls with debris flying underneath. “The tornado lifted it up, but the Lord put it right back down,” said Josephine, “and in a few minutes, it was over.”

Within hours of the deadly storms, Samaritan’s Purse sent staff to Mississippi to assess the damage. Two Disaster Relief Units were deployed—tractor-trailers stocked with tools and equipment: one to the Rolling Fork and Silver City region and another to Amory, Mississippi.

The tornado that hit Rolling Fork left behind an incredible trail of destruction.

The tornado that hit Rolling Fork left behind an incredible trail of destruction. The Turner and Myles families live on this street.

Josephine’s home was one of many that volunteers have helped clean up since the storm. Over 700 volunteers have tarped roofs, cleared debris, salvaged personal belongings, and removed trees in Jesus’ Name across Mississippi since Sunday, March 26.

“Lord, This Is How We’re Going to Die!”

Josephine’s son Michael Myles, Rolling Fork’s police chief, lives just a few houses down from his mom. He, his wife Becky, and their 9-year-old granddaughter were together when the ferocious twister completely destroyed their home, leaving 18 years of memories in a pile of rubble. But they thanked God that He spared their lives.

“When they say it’s going to storm, you never think it’s going to be a tornado,” Becky said. The night the tornado came, Michael turned on the local news and they heard the words, “A tornado will be in Rolling Fork in three minutes—take cover!”

Police Chief Michael Myles speaks with Site Leadership Team member Alan Sullivan.

Police Chief Michael Myles speaks with Site Leadership Team member Alan Sullivan.

Immediately, the power went out and she heard what sounded like a freight train headed straight toward their home. The family rushed into the bathroom and within seconds, the twister arrived. Michael quickly covered his wife and granddaughter—exactly like his sister did to his mother, Josephine.

Becky shared, “We got down and we heard roaring sounds—it was our house breaking apart. My husband was yelling, my grandbaby was yelling and I was calling on Jesus.” In that moment, Becky believed they would not survive this storm. “We were down on the ground and I said, ‘Lord, this is how we’re going to die.’ I was just waiting for the house to fall on us,” Becky said.

Aerial shot of tornado destruction. Homes flattened.

The rubble to the left is Chief Michael and Becky’s home.

Suddenly, she felt an overwhelming sense of peace rush over her. “In the midst of all of that, it was like as if God said, ‘Calm down—I got you.’” She opened her eyes, looked up and saw the sky—her house was gone—but they were alive.

When they emerged from the rubble, all they could hear were the neighbors’ cries for help. Becky explained, “They were screaming saying ‘help me, help me’ because they were all trapped.”

Becky glanced over at the rubble of her home and said, “How can you not have faith and trust and believe in Him? He spared us.” She explained, “God is so good. My mother-in-law [Josephine] says it all the time, so we say it also, God is so good.”

The Myles and Turner families connected with Samaritan’s Purse when volunteers canvassed the neighborhood to see who needed assistance. Although Chief Michael and Becky’s home is beyond repair, volunteers removed a large tree and helped salvaging precious belongings to get them one step closer to recovery. One special item Becky asked volunteers to look for was her wedding album. After hours of searching, they found the album intact.

  • Becky hugs her rediscovered wedding album alongside a Samaritan's Purse volunteer.
    Becky hugs her rediscovered wedding album alongside a Samaritan's Purse volunteer.

Finding precious objects like Becky’s wedding album is one-way volunteers from all over the country assist families with the process of recovery after a life-altering disaster occurs.

“I’m so thankful. It was great. It was wonderful. The spirit in them [the volunteers], it’s not fake, it’s not phony, it was so genuine,” Becky said.

Spared to Be Saved

Chief Michael’s sister, Julia Powell, also survived with Jermaine Myles and their 2-year-old daughter. However, their home sustained significant damage.

When a massive tree fell in the front yard, it shattered windows and severely damaged their roof. Jermaine ran to protect Julia and their daughter from the debris flying around them. He tried his best to comfort Julia as they both clung to their young child as the storm passed.

Moments later it was all over. Within a few days, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers arrived to their home. They cut up and removed the large tree, cleared debris, and secured a tarp on the roof. “They [the volunteers] did a wonderful job. I’m so glad the Lord brought you here. You’ve been a blessing to the whole community,” Julia said.

Julia Powell listens to a Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplain at her home.

Julia Powell listens to a Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplain at her home.

God had a greater purpose in protecting Julia through this terrifying storm. During a conversation with a Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplain, Julia realized her need for the Savior and placed her trust in Jesus Christ. We give God the glory for this miracle of new birth!

Please continue to pray for families in Rolling Fork, Silver City, and Amory, Mississippi as they rebuild their lives, homes and communities. Pray for new believers, including Julia, to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray also for our tornado responses in Arkansas, Indiana, and Tennessee.

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U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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