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Seminary student, Mossy Grove native: ‘We have a lot to be thankful for’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–For Southern Baptist Theological Seminary student Mike Hamby, the morning of Nov. 11 didn’t simply crawl along. It nearly stood still.

His hometown, Mossy Grove, Tenn., had been ravaged by a tornado. Seven people were dead. More than 100 people were unaccounted for at the time. Calls into Mossy Grove weren’t going through, and Hamby had no idea if his mother, Betty Hobbs, was one of the victims.

“I just wanted to go and try to find mom,” he said. “I couldn’t get through to anybody.”

Hamby had spent Sunday night studying for a test and had awakened early Monday morning to begin the one-hour commute from Burgin, Ky., where he serves as pastor of Burgin Baptist Church to the Louisville, Ky., campus.

His test began at 8 o’clock. Soon, though, it would seem trivial.

At about 8:15 he received word to call his wife, Laurie, back in Burgin. He stepped out of the classroom, made the call and was told about the tornado damage. She had been watching the news and had been unable get through to his mom.

Hamby was somewhat shocked by the news. After all, Mossy Grove is a community with only a few hundred people. As Hamby says, there’s not much more than a shoe store and a gas station. When people inquire about his hometown, he saves time by simply saying “Knoxville” — even though he went to school in the county and grew up in Mossy Grove Baptist Church.

“I said, ‘Are they showing Mossy Grove on Fox News?’ She said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m going to try and finish this test and I should be back about 10:30.'”

Hamby, still gathering information, asked a bystander what he knew.

“He said, ‘Yeah. It’s on the national news. They’re saying that there are seven people dead in Mossy Grove and about 140 people are still missing.’

“I said, ‘Is that seven people in Mossy Grove, or is that county-wide or statewide?’ I know how small Mossy Grove is. He said, ‘They’re saying it’s in Mossy Grove.’ I asked him to pray about it.”

Stunned, Hamby turned his test in unfinished and headed home to his wife and baby son. He began to wonder: Did his mother survive?

“Driving back that’s what I was thinking about and praying about,” he said. “I think I was kind of in shock. All I knew was that I needed to get down there and find out what was going on. I tried not to think too much about it. …

“If there’s seven people dead in a community like that and 140 people missing, that’s pretty bad.”

Once at his house Hamby turned on the TV, saw the destruction and decided to drive to Mossy Grove to search for his mom.

“I didn’t know if I would pull up and see her house gone or not,” he said.

But Hamby never went. Five minutes before he was to leave, the phone rang. It was his mom, and she was fine and her house was still standing.

“She’s fine, and all of my family is fine,” Hamby said.

Many of her neighbors, however, had lost their homes; some of them had been killed; while emergency workers were quickly lowering the count of the missing.

God had protected Hamby’s mother. With no basement, she simply went to the middle of her house and took cover in a hallway. But just down the road, a family with a basement had their house destroyed.

A large tree on his mother’s property fell away from the house — instead of falling onto it. A small building on her property was toppled. In the end, she survived.

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” Hamby said.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust