Bentleyville, USA (AP)- Al Roker never predicted a rapturous burst of the power of prayer in his weekend forecast.
The Child Soldiers For Christ youth group had assembled at their regular "divine debriefing" Sunday morning service when a loud noise startled those inside the First United Bentleyville Church of Our Holy Father's Second Coming of the Trinity. Trouble was brewing from the heavens. But little did the small but devoted congregation of tween Christians realize, they would soon send an F-5 tornado packing for a one-way ticket straight into the brutal confines of hell eternal.
"Dang thing sounded like a freight train," said youth pastor Mike Beechaum. "But of course, a description of the sound of every tornado in the history of the known universe has been compared to that of freight train. If only the good Lord had blessed me with a broader vocabulary," Beechaum told reporters before joining fellow church members speaking in tongues.
Strong storms had been surging throughout the region several hours before the faith of the youth ministry was severely tested Sunday morning. Local authorities, including Mayor Hinkle and city council, had warned residents to stay home if possible, and to seek refuge in basements or designated shelter facilities. But not even the threat of historically inclement was enough to deter the Child Soldiers For Christ. In fact, it became an opportunity to invoke a greater power.
"I punched a hole in the stained glass window and looked up. When I saw the funnel cloud forming above the steeple, I knew what us troops needed to do," said 10-year-old Todd Fairley, the groups' anointed prayer drill sergeant. Fairly then marched his "fellow Jesus GIs" into the church parking lot despite the chaos outside. With the gradually strengthening mega-twister bearing down, the young Christians formed a hand-in-hand prayer circle around the anticipated touchdown area. "I knew we needed to pray something fierce," said Fairly.
The descending tornado, which unleashed winds estimated to reach 175 mph, cast those feebler church members with infantile grips several hundred feet at blistering speeds into nearby cow pastures. But the prayers were a mighty force, too. "We closed our eyes and bowed our heads, mostly to protect our eyesight from the swirling debris," said one devotee. "Then we just started humbling asking our almighty Savior to spare our pitiful souls from harm."
But the almighty Savior did one better.
"Halleluiah, a big 'ol hole suddenly opened up in the asphalt."
Those in the prayer circle describe the hole as an approximately 10 foot x 10 foot entrance into to an intensely scorching pit of hellfire and brimstone. There was no question; the young believers were standing between a closed low pressure circulation, and Hell itself.
"Then the godforsaken twister got sucked into eternal damnation. Amen! I swear it even cryptically uttered 'I'll get you for this you meddling little shits,' as the hole quickly closed back up," said Fairley. "Whatever. It's Satan's problem now."
The Child Soldiers For Christ youth group are being praised by locals, whose community has been spared from the devastation. Mayor Hinkle plans to commemorate the fearlessness of the group by erecting a statue of Jesus forcefully holding Lucifer's head atop a menacing funnel cloud. "It's a kind of biblical swirlie," says Hinkle.
The statue will be built on the former site of the two handicap spots in the church parking lot.
"Thanks to the power of prayer, the Lord intervened and spared us from the destructive storm," said Pastor Beechaum. But when asked why the good Lord spared the church while other nearby facilities weren't so lucky, including the total annihilation of the Bentleyville Children's Hospital, and Tri-State Cancer Research Center and School for the Blind, Beechaum scampered behind the church parish then intermittently peered around the corner until the news trucks had completely disbursed.
This Wednesday at 7pm, the American Legion Post 239 will host a prayer circle for the loss of the Bentleyville Children's Hospital, and Tri-State Cancer Research Center and School for the Blind.