Christian aid pouring in for victims of Oklahoma tornado

(Photo: Samaritan's Purse)Members of the Samaritan's Purse disaster relief team depart pray before departing the organization's headquarters for Oklahoma. The tractor trailers of Samaritan's Purse carry loads of tools and equipment, including chain saws and generators. The tractor trailers also serve as command centers.

Christian aid groups and churches have moved in to help after the devastating tornado that killed at least 24 people and injured scores of others in Oklahoma.

The tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday with 200 mph winds. Especially hard hit was the town of Moore.

The twister demolished buildings over a wide area and flattened elementary schools.

In one of the schools, Plaza Towers Elementary, the tornado killed seven of the nine children .

The storm was massive. According to CNN, it was a mile wide and 17 miles long at one point.

With search and rescue efforts continuing for missing survivors of, humanitarian agency Church World Service said it was providing relief supplies immediately with a focus on helping the area to recover in the long term.

CWS Emergency Response Specialists moved into the area and were making contact with partners in affected areas to assess immediate and longer-term needs.

The agency said ti will send shipments of CWS Kits and CWS Emergency Blankets, and also will provide training for local long-term groups to ensure that affected people receive assistance accessing the resources they will need in the months and years following the disaster.

"We have worked extensively in communities struck by tornadoes in the region," said Donna Derr, the agency's chief of emergencies. "Our job is to provide immediate assistance with CWS Kits, and focus on the helping most vulnerable, who typically have the hardest time recovering, in the long term."

The Christian Post reported that Christian leaders and churches were quick to offer housing and comfort.

Oakcrest Church of Christ in Oklahoma City was opened up to shelter people. It had been hosting people since an earlier storm this month.

A group of quilters from the church donated blankets usually meant for homes for children, according to Bloomberg News, as noted in the Post.

Life Bible Church in Norman also opened its doors to displaced persons and commuters who couldn't get home due to the severe weather. Another church, St. Andrews Church in Oklahoma City also served as a shelter.

Oklahoma Christian University, which is affiliated with the Church of Christ, noted on its website that several local churches and other ministries affiliated with the denomination nationwide were sending relief in various forms.

One of them is the disaster relief ministry of White Ferry Church of Christ in West Monroe, Louisiana.

This is the home church of the Robertson family, stars of the popular reality show "Duck Dynasty."

The program regularly features their faith-based values.

First Baptist Church of Moore is serving as the center for Oklahoma Baptist Relief Centers.

The church is accepting donations of supplies such as air mattresses, bottled water and ready-to-eat food, according to Religion Today.

Parachurch ministries are also helping out.

The Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Samaritan's Purse, two organizations headed by Franklin Graham, the famous evangelist's son, are providing chaplains trained to handle crises, according to Religion Today.

"Our hearts are breaking for all those in the path of this horrific tornado," Jack Munday of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team."Words can't do justice to the pain being experienced in and around Moore."

"Please pray continuously for all of those who lost loved ones, and for those who still be trapped amidst the rubble."

Samaritan's Purse called for volunteers, and are requesting teams of up to 15 people. They asked for people able to clean up debris, do work with a chain saw, and to do roof repairs.

Personnel from Operation Blessing, affiliated with evangelist, philanthropist and university chancellor Pat Robertson, are on the ground in Oklahoma assessing the damage and organizing relief for those who need it most.

The faith-based groups Convoy of Hope and the Salvation Army are also providing disaster relief.

Pope Francis offered prayers for those affected by the tornado at morning mass on May 21 and also via his Twitter account.

"I am close to the families of all who died in the Oklahoma tornado, especially those who lost young children," tweeted the pontiff, Catholic News Service reported. "Join me in praying for them."

Pope Francis is followed by 2.5 million people on his English-language Twitter account and by the 2.4 million who follow his Spanish-language feed.

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