On that day, 62 tornadoes broke out across Alabama, including the EF-4 category tornado that shredded parts of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. Days later, satellite images tracking the storms showed a series of deep scars created by twisters gouging “the Heart of Dixie.”

Tuscaloosa was my home for four years, and to see pictures of the damage was heartbreaking. This was a town that adopted me and my family, natives of the West, and treated us like cherished cousins.

As many of you know, it’s impossible to acknowledge the magnitude and scope of a destructive tornado until you see it yourself – and when you do, it’s usually with tears in your eyes.

But somehow, those scars are starting to heal for the people of Alabama. The spirit of love, hard work and faith in God that has long defined them is now conquering the trials nature cruelly threw upon them on April 27.

Gregory Enns, a former editor of mine, was one who survived the storm with his wife and his son, huddled in a closet.


When they emerged, their memory-filled house was in pieces. Trees on their house and across their street prevented them from driving to a hotel. With a few bags in hand, they walked away from their destroyed home to start anew.

This Christmas, however, they can relish the fact there is a “thrill of hope,” when “the weary world rejoices.”

Their family is rebuilding the home on the same lot and alongside the same neighbors. It is inspiring to me that in the shadow of so much loss, the most empowering force for recovery is the determination to start over.

So often we celebrate Christmas like some commercial explosion of retail and vacation, a time when the kids are home from school, stores boost commercial receipts, and we run out the clock on the calendar year.

But if you can reflect on the true meaning of the holiday, when salvation came to the Earth through the birth of the Lord and Savior, it almost gives a more practical meaning to have Christmas at the end of the year.

When the tumult and restless turn of nature finally settles in late December, we really are compelled to turn our eyes to God.

There really can be peace on earth – especially when we look outside of ourselves and strive to serve and help others.

In this issue, you’ll read about efforts made in that spirit. Jessica Lilley joined a Christian missionary program last spring to help Honduran ranchers with their small herds.

You can read about her journey, as well as Kim Holt’s account of junior cattle ranchers and their fundraising efforts for troops and service clubs.

Wherever you are this Christmas, remember that the thrill of hope remains, and the weary world does have reason to rejoice.  end_mark



David Cooper