Church remembers close call with tornado a week later

By Chad Weber

November 24, 2013 Updated Nov 25, 2013 at 12:48 AM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- A tornado narrowly missed an East Peoria Church on its path to Washington.

Sunday, those at Harvest Bible Chapel came together to give thanks for their safety and pray for those affected.

"Blowing down trees, coming right at this property," Tim Harkness described to his congregation.

Harkness was about to begin his 11:00 AM service at Harvest Bible Chapel last Sunday when the tornado hit.

Debris flew across the parking lot and a mad dash to get everyone inside began.

"I tried to get as many people in like the other guys were,"said parking volunteer Dan Seckler. "When I got halfway to this point, I got thrown in the grass over here probably about 15 or 20 feet."

"The guy said I was watching as the tornado came and hit the parking lot," said Harkness. "Took a hard turn north and blew through the parking lot out. It turned 50 feet from this building."

Harkness said 600 lives were sparred, and only minor damage was left to the church.

"We saw some swirling debris," said Chad Bailey.

Chad and his wife Denise went to church that day.

Only they attended the early service.

When they arrived home in Washington, the tornado had reached its full strength and they took shelter in the basement.

"Crashing and glass shattering," said Denise Bailey. "We thought the house was gone."

The Baileys are one of eight families attending Harvest Bible Chapel who lost their homes from the tornado that hit Washington.

"Basically they were just our support system that entire afternoon," said Denise Bailey.

Volunteers from the Church came to the aid of the Baileys and other families, helping them salvage personal belongings and cleaning up debris.

For Denise, the tornado has given her new perspective.

"It's not any of the stuff that's important or the tasks that need to be accomplished," said Bailey. "It's the people who are around us."

Those of faith said it's no coincidence the tornado left area churches standing.

"You can touch the property, do not touch my servant," said Harkness during his sermon.

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