The last column I wrote appeared in the Times-Union on July 19 — the same day an EF3 tornado went through the center of my hometown, Marshalltown, Iowa, causing massive destruction.

I had just been in Marshalltown for a reunion at the church I grew up in. The storm took the roof off of that structure and it will have to be demolished. We moved my mother out of the home I grew up in three years ago but that neighborhood looked like a war zone. Thankfully, no one was killed as the storm tore trees, houses, buildings and the cupola off the courthouse.

I left as soon as possible to join the relief efforts of The Salvation Army in the area. Recently it was reported that 40 percent of downtown will have to be demolished and almost 100 homes were lost, mostly in the poorest part of town where I grew up on Fourth and Bromley.

I was working 10- to 12- hour days and then visiting my mother at the Iowa Veterans Home, which was not damaged by the storm. The Lord decided in the middle of this mess to call her home. One day when I got a break to see her I apologized for not being there more. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Go to work!”

She was the last of the Greatest Generation in my family growing up during the Great Depression and then working at Marshalltown Manufacturing during World War II — a “Rosie the Riveter.” She didn’t get to see how people came together to help their neighbors in a time of crisis but it would not have been a surprise. That’s what you do when you are Hawkeyes and Americans.

It will take a long time for recovery in "M’Town" but their spirit is strong, many of those values instilled by people like my parents.

 John 3:8 says, “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’ — out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”

We spent time hearing stories, wiping tears and praying with people who were affected by the storm. It was an opportunity to share that even in the storms of life there is a God who cares.

I stood at the cemetery with my family as we said farewell to our progenitor being committed to the rich soil of Iowa. I looked over the landscape seeing the damaged courthouse in the distance. We don’t know which way the wind blows, so how can we plan tomorrow? But the wind of the Spirit of God can see us through any storm of life during our temporary stay on this sphere.

More importantly, if we ask for forgiveness and place our trust in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection, that Spirit will carry us in peace to eternity.

Thanks to everyone for their financial support, words of encouragement and prayers.

Ken Locke is community ministries director of The Salvation Army in Warsaw and director of the Greater Warsaw Ministerial Associa-tion. Have ideas for this column? Go to