Survivors to speak at two local churches

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Two survivors of separate harrowing experiences are scheduled to share their inspirational messages Sunday in Clovis.

Gilbert Forrest will conduct multiple services at a revival being held at First Christian Church of Clovis where his son, Jon Forrest, currently serves as senior pastor.

The longtime Oklahoma pastor is a survivor of a 1999 F4 tornado that tore across the state, leaving hundreds dead, injured or homeless.

Meanwhile, Holocaust survivor Eva Hance is scheduled to speak at the First Church of the Nazarene about her horrifying experience.

Gilbert Forrest said he was tracking the path of the devastating tornado on the local news channel with his wife Barbara when they suddenly lost power. “I knew the storm was coming,” Forrest said. “I could hear the wind roaring.” The couple lay huddled on the floor of the Mulhall Christian church parsonage wrapped in a comforter along with their two beloved dogs as the tornado raged above them.

“It probably only lasted a few minutes,” Forrest said. “The entire roof was blown off and the walls buckled.”

Once the storm had cleared and it was safe to venture outside, Forrest was amazed what he saw. “The entire building had been scooted over about 40 feet onto the neighbor’s property,” Forrest said.

Refusing to accept surrender as an option, placed a banner in front of the ruins of the church as a message of hope that everything would be rebuilt.

It read: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord. “When this city will be rebuilt.” Jeremiah 31:38.

According to Forrest, it took a year and a half, but a new and better church was constructed with the help of benevolent relief organizations. The pastor opened his doors to a record attendance and continues to preach there today.

The 70-year-old said he plans to preach on several subjects during the upcoming revival, but not about the terrible storm which could have ended his life.

While Forrest’s chilling experience lasted only minutes, Hance endured months of abusive treatment.

Hance said she spent seven and a half months in the Duchau concentration camp in Germany with her mother and younger brother.

According to the Budapest, Hungary, native, she will never forget the day she and her Jewish family were forced from the safe haven of their home. “The life was miserable,” Hance said. “It was horrible.”

She recounted such horrors as babies being used for target practice. “The Germans would throw them up for a target shoot,” Hance said.

Being only 11 years old at the time, Hance could only watch helplessly as men, women and children were tortured and gassed. “We had no food — no water,” Hance said. “I was shot in the left leg for asking for water.” According to Hance, it is a miracle her family survived the ordeal.

The inspirational speaker will tell these stories along with many others Sunday morning. Hance said that although she does quote the Bible, her speech is typically not religious.

“My message is one of love,” Hance said. “I am interested in getting hate out of people’s lives.”