What’s your story? Trusting God when the world is turned upside down … literally

It was a typical March day in Granger. Living in Central Texas, we were used to changes in the weather. Although some was severe, none had impacted us up to this time. We seemed always to be between the severe weather issues and just out of reach of tragedy.

Until March 21. That day was stormy, but nothing we hadn’t seen before. There were forecasts of severe weather in the area, but I wasn’t worried. My mom and I were watching TV together at her house, which is located about 50 yards in front of my house. Mom was in hospice care, and being close allowed us to see her every day. 

That day we got a call from my brother warning us of a tornado heading our way. He urged me to get out of my chair and look. Now, my brother has always been a weather alarmist and had called me many times in the previous 20 years about disasters that never happened. So I meandered out the back door and looked. What I saw was about to change my life. 

I ran inside to get my wife to look. She came outside and we looked at it together: a tornado, headed straight for us. We ran back into the house, and about the time we reached Mom in the living room, it hit.

At first, it was just a lot of wind shaking the house. But when the windows blew out, I knew we were in trouble. Glass and debris were blown all over my wife, Mom, and me. My wife and I got on the floor to find some cover, but Mom was helpless on the bed in the middle of the living room.

Mom’s bed was lifted into the air, then the house was lifted and began to move. My wife called my name and we looked into each other’s eyes. I saw no fear in her eyes and I felt no fear in my heart. I simply remember thinking, “We are about to meet Jesus face-to-face.” But then, as quickly as it blew in the house, it was over. It lasted maybe 15 seconds.

We suffered not one scratch from the glass and debris. But when I looked out the back door, I beheld a horrifying sight: my grandchildren were at home and in the debris field I saw. My house was totally gone except for a small room in the middle of the house. 

"Some things in life are insurmountable in the flesh, but with God all things are possible."

I told my wife to take care of Mom; I had to get to my grandchildren. As I ran, I yelled, “Is everyone OK?” Hearing no answer, my heart was stilled. I called out again, still no answer. Standing next to the wreckage I called again, “IS EVERYONE OK?” I heard the sweet sound of my baby’s voice, “Grandpa, everyone is OK! We are all OK!” At this point I nearly broke, but it was a time for action.

I told my grandchildren, “The only thing standing is the room you’re in. The rest is gone, and I don’t know how stable the walls are. Stay put and we will get you. Do not try to climb out!” They remained where they were and, for once in their lives, they listened to Grandpa. 

Shortly after that, my son-in-law Danny arrived. There was a wall blocking the rescue, but we used a Bobcat to move the wall. Danny pulled away the debris blocking his way into the room where the grandchildren were trapped. He lifted three of the four who were in the room through the roof and the fourth was carried out by a rescue worker who had arrived on the scene.

Everyone was safe. Mom was taken to a hospital and later to my sister’s house. She died a few weeks later of natural causes. My grandson suffered a concussion but is all right now. The eldest granddaughter saved the life of my great-granddaughter by throwing herself on top of her to save her from debris.

The community of Granger came together to help in amazing ways and my church, First Baptist Church of Leander, was miraculous in its support. My wife and I stayed with my pastor, Tim Moore, and his wife. The rest of the family stayed with friends. We are now waiting to rebuild.

I have not always been faithful, but since 2004, the Lord restored me and I have been a faithful servant. I have always tried to trust God first before doctors or anyone else. I have always trusted God for protection and have never doubted that He would protect me.

So why did our family get hit with a tornado and lose practically everything? I don’t know. It never occurred to me to ask God why. The most important time to trust is when we don’t understand. The true test comes when adversity comes. When your faith is tested, that is the time you know of your walk with God.

I still have problems breathing from my bout with COVID; this only serves as a reminder that I must trust God to breathe. My place still looks like a debris field, and I have to be careful where I step so as to not get hurt, but that only serves as a reminder that I must trust God. If you call yourself a believer, you must trust God and allow Him to guide your next step, and then your next, and then your next. If you try to guide your own steps, you will fail. 

So what’s my story? Some things in life are insurmountable in the flesh, but with God all things are possible. 

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Rick Hertless
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