A Father’s Day Story

Sometimes the worst of times and the best of times come in close proximity. 

That’s the way it was with Reginald Epps, Sr, of Coaling Alabama.  Coaling is a small community east of Tuscaloosa.  On the afternoon of April 27, 2011, Reginald Epps watched the weather.  Though he was due to be at his fire station in less than an hour, Reginald decided to wait to see what the weather would do.  It was a good thing that he waited.  The same monster tornado that tore through Tuscaloosa hit Coaling as well.  Reginald, Sr, and his wife Danielle experienced any parent’s worst nightmare.

When the wind picked up Reginald called his family–wife, Danielle and three boys, Reginald, Jr, age 8, James, 6, and Joel, 4–from the kitchen to the bedroom.  Like a good firefighter, he was prepared, handing his wife a flashlight and taking one for himself. 

Just as they moved to the bedroom, the tornado struck, taking out the walls of the house and taking off the roof.  Reginald, Jr., the last to leave the kitchen, was literally sucked out of the house and deposited about thirty feet outside the house.

Reginald Sr. described it this way:  “It happened in an instant, he just got sucked away from me.  I tried to reach up for him but I couldn’t stop him.  It was like he was on a bit of string being pulled from behind.”  Miraculously, Reginald, Jr, (known as RJ)survived with only cuts and bruises.  RJ told a nurse that he was floated up inside the tornado and he floated back down.  He said that he saw the flashlights and started walking toward them.

Reginald, Sr, suffered a punctured lung, three fractured ribs, and cuts and bruises.  When the storm hit and destroyed the house, the parents each lay on top of the two remaining children.  Danielle lay on top of four year old Joel, crying out to God:  “God protect us!  God protect us!” while Reginald, Sr, got on top of James.  He described what God intended for fathers.  He said:  “I said to James in his ear, I will never forget his face:  ‘It’s OK buddy, I’m here for you, I’ll protect you.'”

Thank God for fathers.

Do you have a father’s day story to tell?

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. — 1 John 4:16 (NIV)