Growing up in Oklahoma, I gained a quick appreciation for severe weather. Kids from other states sing, “April showers bring May flowers.” Kids in Oklahoma sing, ” April showers bring May tornados!”

More than once, I ran through the rain to find shelter in Miss Harding’s storm cellar. Sirens blared as huge elm trees bowed to the spring winds. Lawn furniture bounced across yards like tumbleweeds, and lightning cracked like a whip. Safety and refuge were the goal as neighbors sought to escape the threat of a raging tornado.

When not occupied by scampering humans, the cellar was often used as a cool, dry place for potatoes. Not all of the potatoes maintained their freshness. Some had grown eyes, and others had started to rot. Nonetheless, the smell of musty, decomposing potatoes was ignored as our attention was drawn to glistening slug slime revealed by the light of smoky candles.

Seeing our neighbors in house shoes, hair curlers and pajamas was a treat. But, what appeared in the storm cellar stayed in the storm cellar. A word about appearances was never spoken above ground.

A whistling A.M. radio gave hints to the status of the storm. Hardly a word was spoken as all in attendance listened for the all clear. Eventually, the winds died down, the lightning subsided and the candles found the bottoms of their wicks. We had survived. The journey back to the house was not nearly as exciting as the race to the underground. Sleep was light and previously encountered dreams were lost forever.

Not everyone makes it to the storm cellar. Not everyone survives. My great-uncle failed to heed the call in 1974. I was below ground in the storm cellar on the family farm as the storm approached. Unaware and hard of hearing, he sat on his porch in town as the twister sucked him loose and took him for a ride on the wind that ultimately cost him his life.

Churches can be a lot like storm cellars. Some even smell like musty potatoes. But, when churches are at their best, neighbors gather there to find safety and refuge.

Unfortunately, not everyone makes it to church. Perhaps they are deaf to the idea. But in most cases, they were never asked. In the end, they are swept away by the winds of life. Left to themselves, they glide along until a major storm takes them away, forever. The journey back to the house never occurs. The all clear is never given, and they never rise above ground level. They remain trapped forever in the darkest eternity.

Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” As believers, we must do all we can to warn our family and friends of the storm that is coming. Spring will bring twisters. Life will bring storms. Eternity will bring either Heaven or Hell. The key is to find safety and refuge. The Church, not the building, must serve as a vessel to direct the lost to salvation found only in Christ. Otherwise, we are nothing more than rotten potatoes in a potato cellar.