Briefly we stood in disbelief of the damage an EF-2 tornado inflicted on nearly every building on the Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) campus on April 19.

But more significantly, in the minutes, hours and days after, we have stood in awe of God’s presence and in the kindness shared through the words and actions of friends.

Bricks were ripped from walls; a shipping crate was tossed hundreds of yards like a toy, and the roofs of historic Raley Chapel and Shawnee Hall were peeled back or ripped off. Destruction could be seen across the more than 200 acres and 1.2 million square feet. Every building and structure on campus suffered damage. But most importantly, our students and employees were safe. We celebrated this and continue to thank God for it, telling streams of media that this was a miracle and that we were in “hallelujah territory.”

On Bison Hill we are committed to equipping the next generation of future shapers to live all of life, all for Jesus. So that’s where we turned our focus: to shaping the future, from wreckage to renewal.

The National Weather Service says wind speeds in an EF-2 can reach up to 135 mph. Ironically, that seems to be about the same pace our friends, including the Oklahoma Baptists Disaster Relief teams, were moving as they quickly assembled to help us.

We understood that, within about 72 hours after the tornado hit, we would need to change from a sprint to a marathon, but our focus wasn’t altered. We had short-term goals we needed to accomplish. The first of which was to bring students who left campus back for in-person classes by May 1. Since each of our buildings had sustained some level of damage, we switched to online classes for the week following the tornado. Thanks to the hard work of nearly 800 construction personnel and volunteers, we accomplished that milestone. Many of you volunteered hours to help the work on campus, and we are grateful.

The second goal was to bring our spring graduation class of 2023 together in person to celebrate commencement on the date and time we had originally set. We knew the ceremony couldn’t be on campus because of ongoing repairs to Raley Chapel. However, several of our friends reached out to offer alternative locations, including the beautiful Del City, First Southern. Thanks to this new location, 232 graduates along with their families were still able to celebrate OBU’s Spring Commencement together on May 20.

Our third short-term goal will be accomplished in August when we welcome new and returning students for the fall semester. We are working hard to repair and replace roofs on buildings; restore effected classrooms, residence hall rooms and offices throughout campus; and renew our beautiful campus grounds to prepare for our students.

As for reaching our long-term goals, we have a long way to go. Construction experts tell us that some of our rebuilding efforts could take up to 24 months. Yes, insurance will help us with a good portion of this but will leave us with deductibles and many other needs unmet. So, we ask for your continued prayers, encouragement and financial support to help us shape the future at OBU as we move from wreckage to renewal.

May God bless you as He continues to bless OBU.