A Story of God's Protection in Joplin
3 Women Survive After Tornado Picks Them Up Inside a Van
June 16, 2011 - Driving head into one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, Cheryl and her two daughters experienced God's hand of protection that will change their lives forever.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
— Psalm 5;11
By Trevor Freeze
The trees were glistening with silver.
Cheryl had never seen anything quite like it. The storm was coming and she was going to outdrive it.
Or so she thought.
Cheryl had picked up her two daughters who were out celebrating high school graduation in Joplin, Mo., and was driving away from the storm. Only her compass was backward and she was actually driving square into it.
Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplain Pam Rhodes was fortunate to hear Cheryl's gripping story and pray for her family.
The details of Cheryl's rescue have God's fingerprints smudged all over it.
A half mile from home, rain started hammering down on 20th street, the tornado's eventual destructive path on the night of May 22.
"She described it as white fingers coming out of the sky," Rhodes said.
The rain was a deluge, coming down so hard, as if she was in a car wash, and Cheryl felt the Lord telling her to pull over.
There could be no other explanation for the magnitude of winds and rain bearing down. Cheryl realized she was in the midst of a massive tornado.
"The windows blew out," Rhodes said. "She pushed her daughters down and began to pray."
This is where the story really takes a God turn. As Cheryl describes it, there was an unexplainable force keeping all three of their heads down and it saved them from a multitude of chards that punctured the van.
Suddenly there was a peace that passed over.
Cheryl and her two daughters were now in the vortex and she could hear the Lord telling her "your daughters are going to be safe."
A split second later, the winds and rain picked up and in the blink of an eye, the van was whipped up into the twister, landing on the top of a roof that had been torn off a building.
Smashed in a van, covered by debris and wrapped in power lines, Cheryl thinks she encountered an angel.
"A man came up and had no debris on him at all and she felt this presence, this peace," Rhodes said. "He came and said he was going to help them get out of the car. He said, you don't have to be afraid and he rescued them."
And as quickly as he appeared, he vanished.
"(Cheryl) always said she could do all things through Christ who strengthens me," Rhodes said. "She feels like God will be with her now, no matter what she goes through."
Rhodes has heard many other inspiring stories similar to Cheryl's as the Rapid Response Team continues to minister and pray with over 2,000 survivors of the deadly storm that claimed 153 lives.
But the story of Cheryl and her two daughters is one that was particularly burdensome and Rhodes continues to lift them up in prayer, as the three women survived the tornado with just a few scratches.
"It was really just the hand of God who saved them." Rhodes said. "God is going to use that."