I was still at home trying to finish cooking dinner before heading to the Grinnell College campus for our weekly Community Worship (CW), when we lost power at about 6:00 pm. This came after a late afternoon hail storm, combined with 70 mph wind and lots of rain.
Students started calling me. Should we still meet? How will we do worship without Powerpoint? And sound? Some students ran over to the chapel and grabbed a bunch of hymnals. I collected as many flashlights and candles as I could and headed to the South Forum, where we usually meet.
As I walked towards the Forum, there was an exodus from the library because the building had closed for the day. The students were discussing what they should do now that they were “powerless” — I had to laugh. My first thought was, “Come join us for CW. You can’t really do much else in the dark, but you can pray and worship.”
Upon arriving at the South Forum, I found students with flashlights arranging chairs into a circle. We pushed a piano closer and practiced a few hymns. Not even a power outage could keep us from gathering to fellowship and worship together.
I sent several students to the student center and to their dorms to invite people to join us. Everything else on campus was canceled. I figured that if Jesus can minister to the disciples in a storm at sea, we can go out into a rain storm and gather some friends for worship
Around 8:00 pm, as students arrived at the Forum to begin CW, we received a tornado warning via text message. A tornado had been spotted close by, and we were instructed to seek shelter immediately.
So we gathered hymnals, flashlights, and a djembe drum, and all 20 of us scurried downstairs to the ladies bathroom, which is the lowest point in the Forum. Here we had worship together. We sang songs, prayed, and met with the Lord. It was beautiful.
When the warning expired we went back upstairs to finish CW with a time of prayer and testimonies. I saw the Lord powerfully at work during this time.
Students were confronted with their own inability to control circumstances. Many of them were concerned about assignments or readings they wouldn’t be able to finish by morning. But several student testimonies about God’s powerful work in their lives over spring break challenged us to pray and give over our burdens to the Lord. I’ve never heard students confess and pray in such a way before.
I’m so grateful for this night. Even though it was stressful and scary, the Lord was powerfully at work to meet students at Grinnell in the middle of a tornado threat. He may thwart our own plans, but God is good and knows exactly what we need.
Jennifer Weinman is an InterVarsity campus staff member at Grinnell College. You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s work at Grinnell by following this link.