CANTON - Before the start of a Sunday prayer and praise service to honor victims of the April 29 tornadoes in Van Zandt County, the sky darkened, lightening flashed and heavy rains fell outside the Crossroads Church.
But the harsh weather didn't stop about 100 people from gathering inside the church to honor those affected by the storms, as well as those who have aided in the recovery process.
"We all went through this in different ways," Lou Ann Everett, Canton mayor, said. "Bad things bring the good things out in people."
During the service, people from different denominations and backgrounds gathered to heal and exchange hugs and words of encouragement.
Pastors from various area churches spoke at the event and prayed for all storm victims, those who lost their lives during the storm, first responders, county leaders, the United States and members of the Van Zandt County Long Term Recovery Group.
Pastor Gary Vaughn, of First Baptist Church of Fruitvale, read the names of each person who died in the storms: Russell "Rusty" Barlow, 51, of Corsicana; Kenneth Hughes, 57, of Canton; Lucretia Evette Sykes, 49, of Fort Worth; and James Clayton Young, 39, of Alba. He then prayed that God help attendees to be able to comfort those who suffered loss during the storm.
"…We just come to you right now and ask you to show us how to comfort each other," he said. "Show us how to (give) that love and that grace and that mercy that you've given us so we can give it to others."
Van Zandt County Judge Don Kirkpatrick gave the closing prayer at the event. Kirkpatrick said many of those affected by the storms are still in the recovery process and that the need for donations, volunteers, storage space and equipment still remains. The Van Zandt County Long Term Recovery Group, which hosted Sunday's event, has formed to help meet those needs.
The nonprofit works with a variety of other nonprofits - ranging from organizations that specialize in feeding the hungry to those that focus on improving mental health - to help those in Van Zandt County who were affected by the April tornadoes.
Right now, the group's primary mission is to help people in need of housing. Those who would like to make an appointment with a caseworker, learn about ways to support the organization or would like to learn more information can call 972-246-6011.
"(The community) is pulling together to help the ones who were affected," Kirkpatrick said.