Staff Members Survive Tornado in Alabama

Justin and Alana Karl's life after the loss of all their worldly possessions

Jess Fong and Seth LaTour
Image(s) courtesy of Justin Karl

Justin and Alana Karl had seconds before the Tuscaloosa Tornado destroyed almost all of their earthly possessions. “We truly did not believe the storm would be as devastating as it was,” says Alana. When their power cut out the afternoon of April 27, the two hid with their dog in a downstairs bathroom.

Their own books, lifted and scattered by the tornado, hit the Karls as they covered themselves with a comforter. All the glass windows of their townhouse shattered and an entire brick wall ripped off.

The tornado destroyed most of their home and both cars.

“The whole experience only lasted about 10 seconds. I just started running house to house trying to get help to people,” says Justin. “It was chaos with children crying, dogs out, big trees down. Our whole neighborhood was gone. It was hard to think that I couldn’t see any standing trees for miles.” 

Ministry in Chaos

The Karls are staff members of Cru, serving students at the University of Alabama.

“After that first day after the tornado, 30 or so students helped pulling things out of our house,” says Justin. The leadership of the Student Government Association organized the student body, cooking 40,000 meals for people.

The Karls will continue to stay and minister at the University of Alabama. “The tornado opened our eyes to how loved we are with the students,” says Justin. At first, the Karls struggled to be emotionally ready to minister to students.

But the tornado has primed people for spiritual conversation. Justin, Alana, and their students have spoken with many others about their faith, and even held a prayer meeting at a local Domino’s Pizza.

Currently the Karls are in transitional housing, but looking for permanent housing in Tuscaloosa. Staff members in the area compare the tornado to the damage they saw doing relief work after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. “Truly we only have God to thank that we are alive,” says Justin.

For more information on the Karl’s ministry and recovery process, please click here

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