Stebbins sees God’s light on a dark day


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — A few miles is all that separated the city of Greenville from the path of the tornado. While the western portion of the county saw damage concentrated to a few roads, a couple miles north of the city on U.S. Route 127 and following Horatio Harris Creek east, one will be able to see how the tornado continued its path of destruction as it headed toward Miami County. The Stebbins family, who live at Horatio Harris Creek Road and State Route 121, were directly in the path and experienced incredible damage. Fortunately, all family members and their horses made it through unharmed.

Mindy Stebbins recalled the night with vivid detail. She said they went to their basement at 8 p.m. and were watching WHIO. Thirty-five minutes later they lost power and all reception on their phone. Jason Stebbins, her husband, tried to get service by the walk-out basement door when they heard a meteorologist say a tornado touched down at Horatio Harris Creek and 127. “That is about two miles from our house,” she said. They immediately found shelter under the stairs in their basement.

“I just prayed for God to save us and our horses.” Each of the family members recalled the moment the tornado hit their home a little differently. Mindy said her daughter, Caleigh, said her ears hurt so bad. “I told her to try to pop them. It was like being on an airplane about to take off; the pressure was building and building,” she said. She continued, “Jason remembers the sound of a woodchipper. For me, it was the loudest noise I have ever heard. It was as if we were under machine gun fire, and the most enormous explosion happened.”

Once the tornado passed, Jason was the first to emerge from the basement and retrieved boots and shoes for everyone.

Mindy recalls that it was dark, and their phones were not working to call for help. After a few minutes, she was able to get a post out on Facebook. It took a little longer for Caleigh to get through to 9-1-1.

Mindy said Caleigh pushed her way through the debris to the horse barn and “yelled that the horses were alive by the grace of God. We were all in shock,” Mindy said.

Five seconds is all it took for them to lose everything – their home, vehicles, and barn. Jason’s business is also on the property, but Mindy said they were fortunate that not all of the equipment was at their house that night.

“We built everything here. When we bought this farm, it was a field and woods. Our blood, sweat, tears, and everything we had went into this place,” she said. They are now taking everything one day at a time as they prepare to rebuild, but she believes they are seeing God’s work in action.

“The community poured in to help us. I said I had never seen so many disciples, the hands and feet of the Lord who had just spared our lives.”

Helpers didn’t wait until the next morning to begin arriving. “Immediately, our community started helping. Our family, friends, our 4H and softball families, and people we had never met until the tornado have been showing up to help. We had people helping with the horses and putting tarps on the open parts of the house – trying to save what we could. Some just doers took charge and dove in during the storm of devastation. Churches, businesses, strangers – just dropping off supplies, sacked lunches, water and coffee. We were surrounded by love. People showed up with chainsaws, gators, side-by-sides, trailers. I am still overwhelmed by the light in the darkness we face,” Mindy said.

While the damage they witnessed may be overwhelming, Mindy said she is equally overwhelmed with gratitude to their friends, family and community. “We will never be able to repay everyone for everything they have done. We will continue to spend our lives paying it forward and helping the next one in line, but we pray nobody ever faces this kind of devastation. We want to thank the Darke county community for everything, they brought us so much hope in the dark.”

Mindy and Jason are the parents to Caleigh, 14, an eighth grader at Greenville Middle School, and Gabriella, 17, a junior at Greenville High School.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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