MEMPHIS, Tenn. Tornadoes ripped through northern Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri on April 2 going down in history as some of Tennessee's most devastating storms, both in property damage and fatalities.
President Jim Wilson of the Memphis Tennessee North Stake said the storm was so powerful that in some places "asphalt had been literally torn off the road." His home received minor damage in the storm.
Other Church members, however, weren't so fortunate.
Ken Davis' home in the Blytheville (Arkansas) Ward as well as his yard and automobiles sustained major damage. In the Trenton Branch in Tennessee, Jim and Mary Warren lost their home. No other members' homes sustained substantial damage. However, the community as a whole did not fare as well.
Destruction in northeastern Arkansas extended south, into the Jonesboro Ward where Bishop David Lewis reported, "In Marmaduke, (Ark)., there are an estimated 90 percent of the homes destroyed."
Members who could, however, used the storm as an opportunity to reach out to others.
More than 160 members of the Memphis Tennessee North Stake, for example, reported to the Caruthersville Community Center April 8-9 and were dispersed to various work stations, helping with clean-up efforts and roof repairs.
One week later, on April 15, 197 members from the Memphis Tennessee North Stake and the Memphis Tennessee Stake worked in Dyer and Gibson counties in Tennessee and Green County in Arkansas.
"The Church took the jobs that others had refused to do," said Lani Bullard, a member of another faith who joined a Latter-day Saint work crew. "I was amazed at how much was accomplished, mostly because everyone pitched in, no one was sitting out. And they all must be part mountain goat; nothing stopped them!"
Ms. Bullard even provided her truck and trailer to haul needed items. The project she was assigned to had been turned down by three previous work groups. When Dyersburg branch President Michael York was shown the work order and warned the damage was horrific, he said, "Give it to me; I will send a crew there."
In Bradford, Tenn. the site where a family of four perished in the disaster Latter-day Saint work crews cleaned farms covered with debris in an attempt to help local farmers plant their fields on schedule. Church members cleared the fields of four farms, including the farm of the deceased family. There, said Steven Brown, Trenton Branch president, they also looked for, and returned to relatives, family belongings.