On September 21, 2005, the North Campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church held its first Wednesday night “Connection” activities. Not just for that year, but ever. We’d been meeting in the new building in Mounds View on Sundays all summer, but this was our first midweek meeting there. It turned out to be eventful.

It began with children’s choir, and in between that and the main class time, I went outside to put something in our suburban and wondered if the warm weather and dark skies in the west might be a sign of storms to come. “Wouldn’t that be interesting?” I remember thinking.

We had a good start for our evening and our year. It was my first night volunteering in Children’s ministries and I was in the Kindergarten/ 1st grade class. In my journal, I noted that early in the class time I was at a small group table with six first grade girls, and they included “the daughters of John Block, Jon Witt, Dale Ludwig, Brent Nordquist, and Kent Hagen”, all men I knew.

I remember the team leader, Mandy Nowlin, introducing the class to the idea of “respect”, and that one of the rules of the class was that we would show respect – to God, to our peers, to the adult who’s leading, and to ourselves. I am now the team leader for that class, and every year I introduce this same rule to the kids.

Our church’s north campus was converted from a business warehouse, and four rooms have nice big windows where the truck docking bays used to be. That year, our class was in what is now Nursery C, which is one of those rooms. We watched it get darker and windier over the course of the evening, and at one point, during the lesson, Connie Oman came in, and with impressive calmness explained that due to the fact that there were significant storm warnings, and because we had the big window in our room, we were all going to walk quietly and stay together as we moved to a more central location.

And that’s what we did. We lined up and followed her. We fairly quickly moved through the hallways, seeing that other classes were doing the same. We all crammed into an empty room (now the church library). And we sat. We heard sirens coming from outside. We heard Pastor Dan giving announcements. All of the adults were out in the main A hallway.

And then the power went out.

Almost immediately, as we felt the near complete darkness, I heard several voices of children indicating they were scared and several voices of adults (including possibly my own) quickly saying with ironically whispering intensity, “It’s okay!”

But it was indeed Okay. Soon we heard singing from the people in the hallway (Debbie later told me that she had initiated it with the kids in the class she was helping with), and we joined along. We were still. We had brick walls around us and a sturdy ceiling over us. And we had God protecting us.

A few minutes later the leaders were announcing that the worst was over and that we could get our kids and go home. We did, and we were drenched as we made our way to the van.

Again from my journal: “All street lights and stop lights were out, and then on County Road H we had to drive on the sidewalk to get past some downed trees. All along that two-minute drive we saw trees and branches strewn everywhere. We finally got home and found that our two trees to the left of the driveway were down and across the driveway. Debbie cried.”

I grieved as well. We’d lost a very nice branch archway which had greeted visitors when they came to our house. But on the plus side, I also later commented, “Except for the lack of refrigeration, Debbie likes not having power. She likes the simplicity and lamps and working outside and slight darkness at night.”

The next day our boys DSC01831 discovered, somewhat to our dismay, that they could fairly easily climb up the downed tree onto the roof of our garage. And like many of our neighbors–and many residents of nearby towns, we spent the next few days cleaning up our yard.

As I look back on this evening, the moment that things could have gone most poorly at church was when we were all sent home and were trying to get our kids. There was still no power, so it was almost completely dark inside. There could have been panicky (or lost) kids or upset parents. But I was thankful to see none of this. I saw patience in the eyes of the waiting parents and in the eyes of the workers delivering their kids.

This was Pastor Gil’s first Wednesday night. And I think it’s a testimony to him, the team leaders, the staff, the parents, and the children that there was so much peace during the storm.

I thank God for this.