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Close Call

AG pastor escapes injury as tornado destroys his home.

An Assemblies of God pastor who started a church in a growing community six months ago, lost his home in a tornado Monday night, but says he sensed God’s protective hand as he and his sons huddled in the family’s garage.

Jason R. Williams, who launched Valley Community Church in Grain Valley, Missouri, last September, was at home around 8 p.m. with his sons Ty, 11, and Talon, 8, when the electricity momentarily flickered off.

Talon already was in bed asleep and Ty expressed anxiety about the threatening weather. Jason prayed with Ty and assured his son that the Lord was watching over them. Realizing that meteorologists had forecast the possibility of tornadoes in the region, Jason wrapped Talon in blankets, and he and his sons headed for the garage after power went out again. The garage was the lowest point in the home they rented in Oak Grove, east of Kansas City, Missouri.

“We weren’t even in the garage for 30 seconds when real strong winds and hail began hitting the house,” Williams says. “Five seconds after that, the garage door was sucked out like a balloon.”

Still holding Talon, Jason pushed Ty to the concrete floor against the back wall of the garage. Jason and Ty tripped over bicycles.

Just then an outer wall of the garage collapsed inward. The wall missed the heads of father and sons by inches, stopped by a tool chest and a rolled-up playground inflatable.

“We fell in just the perfect spot,” Williams says. “Otherwise the wall would have landed on top of us.”

Debris churned through the air and cinder blocks fell, but Williams says God continued to protect him and his boys from harm. He estimates the tornadic activity took less than a minute.

Once the trio emerged from their sheltered spot, Williams realized the house had been lifted and moved about 30 yards southeast into the backyard.

“The tornado picked the house up off its foundation,” says Williams, a Central Bible College graduate. “There’s no fixing it.”

Soon afterwards, his wife of 18 years, Jennifer, and the couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Tessa, arrived home from cheer practice for a tearful reunion.

The storm blew out numerous windows in the home and destroyed most of the family’s belongings. The Williams spent much of Tuesday sorting through the remains, and they are able to salvage some clothing left intact.

Grain Valley is in Jackson County and located on Interstate 70 east of Oak Grove. The population has grown to around 15,000 today from 5,160 in 2000. Williams formerly served as a staff pastor at the nearby EPIC Church in Independence. With assistance from the AG’s Church Multiplication Network as an AGTrust Matching Fund church, Valley Community Church became a Parent Affiliate Church of EPIC Church, where Bobby Hawk is lead pastor and his wife, Vanessa, is a prekindergarten teacher.

“It’s definitely a miracle that they’re alive,” Bobby Hawk says of Williams and his two sons. “My wife put it best when she said it’s better that we’re scurrying around trying to collect resources to help them replace their stuff rather than planning funerals.”

Hawk is optimistic that God will be glorified through the tragedy.

“My prayer is that God is going to use this to give them an opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Hawk says. “They are a faith-filled family, and this will cause them to plant even deeper roots in the community.”

Convoy of Hope dispatched a disaster services team to Jackson County on Tuesday with a load of relief supplies.

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.