The tornadoes which ravaged the southern United States last week left thousands homeless, over 300 dead, and countless lives turned upside down. It is very difficult to fathom 226 tornadoes (a U.S. record) in one day and the destruction they caused. For me it was a privilege to help out in a small way by joining a small team to deliver food and goods yesterday. A couple of thoughts.
1. People from our churches have been SO generous with their money and their time to help people they do not know. People from all over the country have given through our online website. I was awestruck by complete strangers in Walmart who came up to me and handed me money (10's, 20's, 100's) when they saw what we were doing. All had a comment similar to this: "I cannot go help you, but please take this and help someone who needs it on my behalf." Wow. Tears flow as I type this.
2. As we prepared for the trip, we kept praying about where exactly should we go. We wanted to go places which might have been overlooked and people would give us names. As contacts were called, we would hear, "our trailers are full right now, but thank you anyway!" Geoff Hattley, the Anglican pastor at St. Andrew's, Huntsville, has been quite active in relief efforts. He and one of his parishioners, Bob Graham, told us about Flat Rock, and their need. When we arrived Monday morning, Jan, the Relief Center Director, told us they had run out of food the night before and that she told folks, "the Lord will provide." The next day, we show up with a busload of food.
After unloading the bus and since we still had funds available, we felt we should go back to a Walmart and reload the bus and go to another place. We were led to Rainsville and were told they needed tents, pillows, mops, brooms, etc. So we bought Walmart out. Like the Walmart in Douglasville, GA, they gave us a discount. While loading the bus at Walmart, a young county emergency worker, came up to me and asked if we could please bring some of the items up to Rainsville (he saw we were loading tents, etc.). When I told him that is where we were going, he teared up and said, "Praise the Lord!"
3. While at each sight, I felt impressed by the Holy Spirit, to ask the leaders of the relief centers if we could pray for them. Each time I and others could sense the power of the Holy Spirit as we asked God for strength, empowerment, wisdom, and provision as they did their job. Each Amen had tears on their faces.
4. We were not there to sightsee, and we did not see much of the damage. But what we saw was horrific. The power of wind is amazing and the destruction was tragic. Homes completely gone. Businesses in crumbles. Tents outside of what one could tell were wonderful homes. Trees mangles and twisted like the strings on a mop. A stark reminder of our human fragility and need for God.
5. We had folks from several different Anglican churches on the team (both ACNA and AMiA). They took time off work to go load and unload a bus. Ride half the night. Sweat most of the day. Not one complaint. A servant spirit is what I observed. Hopefully, someone will take another look at Jesus because of our witness and service for Him and to Him.
6. Bob Graham, a lay-person from St. Andrew's, Huntsville, has been interviewing folks and posting pictures. You can check out their stories at www.stormHOPE.org.
7. Please remember to pray for all the victims of these storms in the coming days and weeks. Out of the news does not mean their suffering and trials will be over. May God reveal Himself to these folks in their time of need in Jesus Name. Amen.