By Adam Ganucheau/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – An Oklahoma pastor is serving as the evangelist at a local Christian camp just two weeks after losing his home in the devastating EF5 tornado in Moore, Okla.
Jeff Sloan and his wife were ordering lunch May 20 when they received a call from their 18-year-old son Josh Sloan. The Sloans knew severe weather threatened the Oklahoma City area and their hometown of Moore that day, but the call took them by surprise.
“When I called them, I was looking at the tornado coming right towards us,” the son recalled. “It wasn’t like the movies. This was literally just a massive dark cloud that touched the ground. It was terrifying.”
Jeff Sloan had recently accepted a pastoral job in Bixby, a Tulsa suburb about two hours from Moore, and was closing on his new house. His two sons, Josh and Caleb Sloan, were at the house in Moore and quickly drove to seek shelter at nearby Hillsdale Freewill Baptist College, where Jeff had been the head of the ministry department for seven years.
The boys watched the tornado rip through their neighborhood from a distance at the college. At the end of the day, that storm killed 23 people and injured 377. The boys were unharmed, but as they approached the home, they discovered more than just wind damage.
“I don’t know if you saw the news coverage of the destruction,” Jeff Sloan said, “but our house was the one that was on fire. It was already bad enough that our stuff had blown away, but then the house burned. They think it was something electrical.”
Virtually nothing remained. In fact, the Sloans could only recover four things from their property – four Precious Moments figurines that are very significant for the family: from the Sloans’ wedding and the birth of each of their three children.
“Those four things represented the four most significant things in my life,” the pastor said. “It was definitely a God thing that we were able to recover those things.”
This week, Jeff Sloan is in Tupelo serving as the evangelist at Morganwood Camp, a Free Will Baptist summer camp located just southeast of Elvis Presley Lake.
Plans were made in December for Sloan to preach at Morganwood. Camp teen week director Paul Bryant contacted Sloan and asked if he would be interested in being the evangelist for this week’s camp, which is hosting seventh through 12th grade students from area Free Will Baptist churches.
“I’ve known Jeff for quite a while,” Bryant said. “We contacted him after the storm hit and told him that we could find another speaker for the week. He said there was a reason he needed to be here, so now he’s here.”
That reason, Sloan said, is to use his story to minister to teenagers in a unique way.
“I never questioned that I still needed to come to Morganwood and share my story this week,” Jeff said. “I am using this as an opportunity to show the goodness of God, even through suffering.”