Mother who lost both her sons in Arkansas tornado: 'I know that God is good'
On April 27 a devastating tornado ripped through Arkansas; one of several to hit the state that month.
April and Daniel Smith and their two sons – Tyler, 7 and Cameron, 9, lived in Vilonia, Arkansas; on a street that faced the eye of the catastrophic storm.
While they sheltered beneath a mattress in their bathtub, the tornado wreaked havoc around them. Their entire house was ripped from its foundations and tragically, Tyler and Cameron were among 15 people killed. April and Daniel miraculously survived, though they each sustained significant injuries.
April's best friend Jessica Sowards shared the family's story on her blog after visiting April in the hospital and finding that her friend, though devastated by the heartbreaking loss of her two sons, was still able to find hope through her unwavering faith in Christ.
"I know I have more pain to go through than I probably can understand. But I have supernatural peace. I don't know what God has for me and my husband that our boys couldn't be here for, but I do know that He is good. His plan is good," April said, just two days after the tragedy struck.
"God can overcome even this."
Jessica's post has since gone viral, gaining millions of hits and reaching people all over the world. She receives letters and emails daily telling her that April's testimony is inspiring many to come to faith.
Jessica shared the story first-hand with Christian Today, speaking about how April's strength has brought her comfort in her own grief.
"We had just moved into our new house which is about five minutes from where April and Daniel's house was, and we were just unpacking our truck and moving in when we heard reports that the tornado was on the ground and coming our way," she recalls.
"So we took cover and I started trying to call April and text her because we saw on the news that the eye of the storm was headed for their house. I wasn't able to reach her, so about ten minutes after the tornado had passed my husband Jeremiah drove over there to check on them, and when he got there he found out they'd been hit.
"He found their sons, and he was able to be there with April and Daniel and find medical help for them; he got there before the first responders."
The news shocked their small community, and Jessica herself was devastated by the loss of the two young boys who had played with her own children just days before.
"I was just completely heartbroken," she shares.
"I went to see April in the hospital, expecting her to be so different; bitter, angry and completely broken, but I got there and she started talking and within a couple of minutes I realised that her faith was unshakeable.
"She encouraged me, saying 'Don't be angry, God is good, this is all part of a good plan, whatever that means'. Obviously she's hugely heartbroken, but she just kept saying 'I know that God is good'.
"I was completely blown away. This was a really big news story round here; we get tornados a lot but not usually ones that kill that many people and cause so much destruction, so it's been all over the news that there's a family who have lost their two children. When things like this happen you put yourself in that person's situation and ask what would I do if I lost both my kids? It's an unthinkable loss, and how would I live through that? I'm a mother and I can't imagine losing any of my kids, let alone all of them.
"But when I saw how strong she is, it immediately lifted a burden of bitterness off me. I felt like I couldn't feel despair if she didn't, and if her faith could be that strong, so should mine."
It was then that Jessica decided, with April's permission, to share her story online, but she never imagined the overwhelming support she would received from people across the world, as well as their own church community.
"I wanted to share it with people, and God put it on my heart to write April's story. I know so many people have found relief in it as well," she says.
"Within two days we had a million hits, and now there's over 3 million. It's been reposted in a lot of places and the story has spread literally to millions of people.
"Another cool thing about all this is that April came to me about a year and a half ago and said she wanted to share her story. Our church did a series and made a video of her, and in that she speaks about how she went to a conference when she was a young girl and a man who she had never met came and prophesied over her. He prophesied that she would be an almighty woman, and hundreds of thousands would come to know God through her. She wrote it down in her Bible, and when I went to see her in the hospital I said to her, 'This is it'.
"She started a deaf ministry at our church, and we thought she'd reach a lot of people through that, but this is it; this is what that prophesy was about. She's already decided that once she's healed, she'll be telling her story herself. Not many people get to have a real life encounter with prophesy like that, so to see it happen, and such a huge response, is incredible. It's changing lives."
Jessica says April and her husband are making a "miraculous" recovery; though a broken pelvis means she is still in a wheelchair, April's cuts have all healed and "she looks completely herself again".
"There's minimal scarring, her scabs are gone and she looks incredible. I know she's going to completely heal and use this for God's glory," Jessica says.
Their local church has set up a fund, and Jessica notes that the Smith's tragedy has bought the congregation together; uniting them in grief and support for one another.
"The whole church is completely behind her, and there's so much love for the family. Their faith has reignited our church; we've always been a passionate congregation, but to see this kind of faith puts a fire in the heart of anyone who hears about it."
"This whole experience has completely changed me," Jessica finishes.
"Going and standing on the slab where their house used to be and seeing nothing, seeing how temporary everything really is, made me want to invest completely in the eternal. All that other stuff is a waste of time.
"April's strength has totally made me believe in the scripture that says 'I can do all things though Christ who strengthens me'. If she can get through this standing, I can get through anything."
Watch April's story below: