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Parkersburg Residents Keep the Faith in Wake of Tragedies

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PARKERSBURG Two recent horrific events changed the quiet, religious community of Parkersburg forever. First, a tornado terrorized the town. Then, Coach Ed Thomas was shot and killed.

Calvary Baptist Church Pastor Ryan Zurbriggen said, "I don't think you'd be human if you didn't ask the questions...what's going on? Why? Why is this happening?"

St. Patrick Pastor Dennis Quint said, "God knows about the events and how they're going to happen, but rarely does he intervene to try and stop them."

While it's easy to see the difference between Parkersburg before and after the tornado, boundaries between the churches in the community are less obvious after the tragedies.

"It's crossed denominations. We're locking arms together in this and that's what's exciting to me," Zurbriggen said.

Parkersburg has about ten churches...which is unusual for a town this size. In the past, they operated independently. Now, clergy work together to help people cope with the tornado and the murder.

"God's plan is perfect. We may not understand it, but we sure do have the opportunity to learn and grow from it," Christian Reformed Church Pastor Rus Boersma said.

Zurbriggen said, "People make bad decisions and bad choices. Bad things do happen. We have to understand that and come to grips with that."

Even though the shock of both catastrophes has tested people's religious beliefs, local pastors say faith remains a priority.

"It's our hope and prayer that those who are wavering are given the chance to do the soul-searching that will draw them closer to a walk with the Lord," Boersma said.

Some question why God would allow such terrible things to happen. Pastors have no easy answers, but try to provide guidance.

"He allows those things to happen because he is so powerful, he can bring good out of those terrible circumstances. But, we don't always have a lot of patience to see that," Quint said.

Many people in town already had a solid foundation of faith. Now that all the churches are cooperating, the goal is to reinforce that foundation as the community heals, rebuilds and moves forward.

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