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August 18, 2013

Journey Church pastor relives days of devastation and hope after May 10 tornado

NORMAN — On May 20, like so many others, Clark Mitchell was glued to the television watching weather reports.

“I was actually scheduled to leave town,” Mitchell said. “I had gone home. I told my wife, ‘We need to go up to the office and take shelter,’” Mitchell said.

When the founding senior pastor of Journey Church called his staff, he realized they were fleeing from the church’s offices in Moore to the church at 3801 Journey Parkway in Norman in order to get away from the storm’s destructive path.

“I went to the church, and just because of my history, I stood out front and watched it (the tornado),” Mitchell said.

That history includes Mitchell, at the age of 9, losing his house to the 1979 tornado in Wichita Falls, Texas.

“Until the Moore tornadoes came through, that was the world’s largest tornado,” Mitchell said. “Our home was destroyed. It’s shaped my response to storms.”

Knowing first-hand the impact that a devastating storm can have on a family, Mitchell knew what had to be done.

“By the time it (the tornado) hit I-35, we had started immobilizing. It all just happened,” Mitchell said.

Before long, and thanks to social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, word quickly got out that Journey Church was a central hub for all things related to tornado recovery.

“We try to categorize things and we are very practical in everything we do ministry wise or benevolence wise. No. 1, the question became how do we help the first responders? And how do we encourage them, strengthen them or refresh them? And these are questions that if you asked other people, they would say, ‘I don’t know how these questions happened’ because it was more of a process I went through. And the second question was, how do we help the victims immediately and long term? And I think the third question that I went through was how do we help other organizations?” Mitchell said. “One of the first things we did, very simple but very significant, was we catered in a whole meal to the emergency staff to the HealthPlex across the street. All of that started happening well within an hour after it hitting.”

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