Between losing two of the three power lines to the Holy Trinity Church, to huddling together in the halls of the Marina Inn Hotel & Conference Center during a tornado, nothing managed to dampen the mood or vigor of the parishioners of this little Church, making it, as Philoptochos President Mary Bariatakis says, “the little parish that could!”
The Sioux City Journal called it a Night of Terror. The next morning they ran an article closer to the truth: Siouxland Storms: “It really is a miracle”. “Minor injuries were reported, but no deaths. National Weather Service officials spent Saturday inspecting damage.” The amazing truth of this night made goose bumps rise on many people’s arms as they looked at this image to the left.
The red on the image reflects the heart of the storm, which ten minutes prior looked to be bearing down on Sioux City, straight at the Conference Site. The funnel of this main tornado stretched a mile wide according to many reports. Then, unthinkably, the storm split in two, traveled around Sioux City, and then reunited beyond it.
Make no mistake, this was a terrible storm. “The National Weather Service said at least eight, but as many as 10 [tornados], were on the ground. Some could have packed wind speeds of up to 165 mph,” and yet there were no fatalities.
Why is this significant?
Because in the halls of the Marina Inn & Conference Center, the Clergy Laity Conference of Chicago had joined together in prayer for the Paraklisis Service. This service had been planned for Friday night for the conference, but halfway through the service, the hotel staff told the attendees that they would need to evacuate and seek shelter in the halls of the hotel.
Did this affect the people? Not at all! Without pause the faithful moved into the hallways and brought the icon of the Directress with them to continue the service. Many non-Orthodox saw them and took pictures or videos with their phones. Because the amount of people needed to be stretched over the entire hall of the hotel, two separate services took place simultaneously, without any coordination from the priests. This simply transpired naturally. Meanwhile, every volunteer weatherman stared at their phone’s live feed of the radar of the storm in disbelief as the storm split.
Someone asked one of the priests, “Do you think we’re going to be ok?”
The priest chuckled, replying, “With a Metropolitan, a Bishop, over forty priests, and the help of Panagia through the Paraklisis, I have a feeling we are going to be just fine.”
This “just fine” apparently applied to those outside the hotel as well. Of the parishioners who live in Siouxland, only two possessed homes in the path of the storm. One saw no damage to her house despite houses two doors down on either side receiving catastrophic damage, as though her house and her neighbors, by virtue of being in proximity to her house, received divine protection. The other parishioner’s home received some minor damage, but nothing terrible.
In addition to this, for the Grand Banquet Thursday night, the parishioners of Sioux City invited members of the Native American Winnebago Tribe from Nebraska to come and dance some traditional dances for the attendees of the conference. Their homes saw no damage, while the tribe next to them saw catastrophic damage.
A cynic might pass these small miracles off as coincidence, but the members of the Metropolis of Chicago Clergy Laity Conference and Philoptochos Assembly choose to label this miracle as the direct intercessions of the Mother of God and His loving mercy that spared His servants and those under their protectorate.
“Again we pray for the safekeeping of this holy church and this city, and of all cities and towns from pestilence, famine, earthquake, flood, fire and the sword, from invasion of enemies, civil war, and unforeseen death; for His mercy, that He will be kind to entreat as our good God, Who loves all people and that He may turn away and scatter all wrath and disease that moves against us, and deliver us from His impending, justified chastisement, and have mercy on us.”