By Adriane Dorr
Aaron Uphoff, finishing up his vicarage at Trinity Lutheran Church, Norman, Okla., didn’t get his planned-for day off on Monday, May 20. Instead, the vicar from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., watched on TV as a tornado devastated Moore, Okla., killing at least 24 people, some of them children.
“Right away, I put my clerical collar on and went up there [to Moore],” Uphoff explains. “I drove as far as I could, and when the traffic stopped, I parked at a house. The couple there gave me a bike and surgical gloves to take with me. At each checkpoint, they let me through because I had a collar on.”
Uphoff drove to the epicenter of the destruction and spent time simply walking through the neighborhoods.
“All the houses were gone,” he recalled. But, in the midst of the chaos, “You could tell where people were buried. You would see beehives of people above the rubble, digging very diligently.”
Uphoff said the reactions of those he met varied: “Some were so happy to have made it out alive, they were giddy about it. But next door, there would sit a guy with his dead dog, and he would be inconsolable.”
He also prayed with parents at Plaza Towers Elementary School, one of the schools where early local news sources reported casualties. “I saw a couple standing at the police line,” he said. “They were waiting to find out if their 9-year-old daughter, Emily, had made it out of the school. I prayed with them and told them, as I did hundreds of times yesterday, ‘Christ be with you.’ ”
“I prayed with as many people as I could,” Uphoff said. “I asked Christ for comfort and for the peace that surpasses all understanding, which is ours by virtue of Good Friday and Easter.”
Seeing firsthand the emotions of those affected by the tornado, he said, “reminded me of who we are as the church: When one member rejoices, we all rejoice together. When one member suffers, we all suffer together.”
Because the National Guard had quarantined the area, Uphoff was unable to return to Moore on Tuesday, May 21. But his vicarage church, Trinity Lutheran in Norman, is planning a prayer service for Wednesday, May 22, at 3:15 p.m., for all members of the congregation, its school and campus ministry, and area families.
Uphoff said his seminary formation was critical in preparing him to bear witness to Christ following the tornado: “It gave me one more opportunity, out of the countless others I’ve had on vicarage, to offer pastoral care interpersonally to people, to do my best to bring Christ to these people.”
Preparing for Trinity’s prayer service and reflecting on what he’s learned in the past 24 hours, Uphoff notes, “The church’s theology of the cross is just running through my mind right now. It’s held up for us in that our God manifests Himself and His love in a dead man hanging on a tree.”
Adds Uphoff: “In that regard, He, in a very real human way, sympathizes with us in His weakness so that when we go through something like this, we are being conformed to His likeness.”
To support those in need following the week’s devastating storms:
- Make an online gift at https://www.lcms.org/givenow/disaster.
- Mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- Call toll-free 888-930-4438 (8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday).
Adriane Dorr is associate executive director for Strategic Communications for the LCMS.
Breaks my heart to see this destruction and peoples lives turned upside down. Hope is in Christ Jesus, for he is strongest at our time of weakness. We must remember His suffering on the cross brings us close to Him for He too knows pain and loss. Its also in His resurrection that we know that our time on earth is only temporary but the glory of God is forever and that we too, who call Him savior, will have ever lasting life.
Pray for those effected by this tragedy. That they can feel the peace of God, the Holy Spirit and of Christ Jesus, the Blessed Trinity. That they can come closer to Him. Pray for those have not heard His word, that they can come to know his Peace and Glory and share everlasting life in the world to come. Pray this in His glorious name…Amen
Christ is the Light of the world…in His Light, we will always see light…Let us pray for those who suffer loss in Moore, that our Lord will comfort them and give them immeasurable peace. For those of us more fotunate to be spared this disaster, let our hearts and minds be open to the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Risen to reach out as Church to assist with the reconstruction of this community, both in a physical sense and in a spiritual sense. God bless the ministry of Vicar Uphoff, now and in the future.
He is my vicar at Trinity in Norman. What a blessing he must have been yesterday in Moore. God bless you Vicar
This young man did so much good!
PRAISE GOD for what YOU did Aaron!!! What a HORRIBLE time for that area but what a GIFT you brought to them!! JESUS CHRIST!
I was going to go looking for a place to make a donation to help…where ALL of it would go directly to “work” and knew the Missouri Synod would have a place!
PRAYERS CONTINUE FOR EVERYONE IN MOORE!
Thank you for pressing forward, getting in to the roughest area, and helping. God bless your efforts.
This is great! I met Vicar Aaron just a little over two weeks ago when he brought a group of students to work at Camp Restore in New Orleans, LA. It turns out he and I are “neighbors” in that he came from Beason, in central IL and I live and work in Kenney, only 5 miles away! God bless him for his efforts in Moore and during his ongoing vicarage in Norman!
It is good to hear that Vicar Uphoff has been able to be of help to many during these difficult days in Oklahoma. During his two years as field worker at St. Paul’s in Fort Wayne, it became obvious to me (as a member there and as a retired pastor) that he is a seminarian who truly has a grasp of how the Ministry of the Gospel should in fact be regarded. We thank God that such an unusually fine seminarian was in the place where he is at this time.
Aaron -What a blessing you have been to the people of Moore. I (WE)knew while you were here at St. Paul’s (Ft. Wayne), that you would be a tremendous minister and comfort with whomever you would come in contact. God has blessed you with a wonderful way to communicate with those who need the comfort, love and peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. May God continue to bless you in your service to Him. We look forward to your return to Ft. Wayne.
Vicar Uphoff has been such a blessing from God. He has been wonderful with the University of Oklahoma college group. He and the college group just returned from Camp Restore in NOLA the evening of May 18 after a full week of helping those in need from the disaster there. Then, on May 20, he goes out to help those hurting from this disaster. We praise God for such a blessing this young man has been!
Very soon I guarantee there will be men and women of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod there among the rubble helping to clean up and retrieve and hopefully serve in that way as they usually do……perhaps through their fraternal group known as AAL/Thrivent!
Well done, Vicar Aaron! Thank you for your good work in delivering His comfort and confidence to those who were shaken last week. These tragic storms are a reminder of how temporary things are in this world. It’s tough to keep our eyes and our hearts focused on the eternal things knowing today’s sorrows of this world will be replaced with joy in the morning! You did Logan County, Illinois, proud, Aaron. Blessings as you conclude both your vicarage and your seminary days in the coming year.