Greensburg More than 3,000 residents, volunteers and disaster workers gathered in this tornado-ravaged town on Sunday to hear leaders from several churches encourage them not to fear the future.
"We have been through the storm. We grieve for those who have lost their lives. We grieve for lost homes, properties, businesses. We grieve as a county," said Rev. Gene McIntosh, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Greensburg.
The nondenominational service marked the first time the congregations have worshiped in Greensburg since the May 4 tornado destroyed 95 percent of their community. Tears and hugs were common as many residents saw each other for the first time since the tornado. Volunteers passed out flowers to mothers to note Mother's Day.
"We are a scattered, dispersed community. But the Lord Jesus is our redeemer and is with us. 'Do not fear for I am with you,' says the Lord," McIntosh told worshippers.
The Rev. Gregory LeBlanc, pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, said the notion of permanence is gone: "You feel you understand in a very real sense how fragile our lives truly are."
He said he understood how easy it is to be overwhelmed by the carnage, the suffering and the sights and sounds in the devastated town.
"We come into this world with nothing, and we leave this world with nothing," LeBlanc said, adding that what does matter is the residents' spirit, will and intentions.
Tim Henning, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Greensburg, likened the city's plight to that of Job in the Bible, whom God tested by taking away everything he loved but who kept his faith through it all: "We are like him, we lost everything," he said.
Henning reminded residents that God was still with them.
"Trust in the Lord with all your strength - God bless Greensburg," he said.
The words "fear not" or "do not be afraid" appear in the Bible 366 times, said Tim Garrett, a missionary for Greater Europe Mission.
And Ken Walker, pastor of Haviland United Methodist Church, told churchgoers that God was with them during the tornado and was with them on Sunday.
Ron and Dorothy Sanders, who have lived in Greensburg for 56 years, said having the church service in Greensburg drew people together.
"This is home," she said.