Last Wednesday night at the same time we were huddled in the basement under tornado warning, the people in a nearby town were doing the same. But, while we were climbing back into our beds after the all-clear was given, they were reeling in the fresh aftermath of destruction.
The tornado hit. There were several casualties. Many lost homes. Just. Like. That.
The news crews swarmed in. And then left.
But the people of that town banned together and are still digging, cleaning, sawing, removing, relocating, clearing, grieving, helping, praying, crying, sweating...breathing in, breathing out. Life is moving forward...slowly.
Today we made a trip to their tornado-ravaged town. The first thing to hit my senses was the sound. Quiet, except for the sounds of demolition...work trucks removing trees and debris, beep-beep-beeping of backhoes and bobcats. A steady pulsing of a town learning a new version of normal. A tearing down in order to build up.
We arrived at a church that is acting as a disaster relief center in the town. We had a trailer loaded with food and supplies graciously donated by several families in our homeschool group. Here's just a small portion of the many many items that families donated to us before we left. We were again in awe of God's provision!
We arrived at the church to find this banner strung in front of their large church sign that had been knocked over by the outer edge of the tornado.
Welcoming signs greet every person who comes to the church's gymnasium for disaster relief, information, prayer, and hot meals...
Everything is organized. People come in the doors with their lists of things they need, and volunteers take the shopping carts around the gymnasium and pick up all the supplies and food the people need. Then someone helps load the box of supplies and food into their vehicles. Anyone is welcome to stay for a hot meal or to rest in the cool building or to meet with someone who will pray with them.
Look at how the donated supplies are organized and ready for any need. The entire gym was organized this way, with any necessity you can think of.
Volunteers taped up new boxes, broke down old boxes, filled boxes with necessary items. Everyone was busy, and the work hummed along.
Three hot meals are served every day. This church isn't going away. They are there from 8am-8pm, with many of the local workers there every day since the tornado struck. They are humbly serving. And they have uplifting Bible verses all over the gym. Look at this one that was on the refrigerator (click photo to enlarge). Though they have gone through so much, still they are taking refuge in their Almighty Rock. It was truly humbling and beautiful.
They are praising their God in the midst of a trying time. Look at their town. This was the Ruby Tuesday restaurant.
A building with bricks ripped right off the sides. And check out the VERY LOW power lines!
A tree, pulled up by the roots...
Another hotel (I could only tell what it was because there's a sign to the right of the building. Otherwise, you simply cannot tell what it was)
Here's someone's home. This one bears the orange circle that many buildings in the town have...it means "BUILDING CONDEMNED." One by one, the condemned buildings will be bulldozed. Today we talked to a sweet woman whose place of work was bulldozed today. Her place of employment was gone, and she was spending all day, every day serving others at the disaster relief center.
We also met a precious family who was in their home when the tornado hit. Seeing the tornado coming, the parents grabbed their children out of bed, threw them in the hall and lay on top of them. The tornado lifted their entire roof 40 feet above the house. They could feel the suction of the strong winds (which were estimated to be 175 miles per hour as they headed through town, according to someone we spoke with today). Many of their valuables were sucked out the windows. Then the tornado slammed their roof back onto their home. They were forced to leave and rent a hotel room until someone could find them a new place to live. They were praying day-to-day for the money to afford one more night in the hotel while they waited for word on a new home or apartment. In just a few minutes, their lives were altered. And yet, with humble hearts, they were just thankful that their lives were spared. They said the one thing they couldn't block from their minds was their neighbor's young child who didn't make it through the tornado alive. Tears welled in their eyes. And yet there was a pressing forward... They called the storm a wake-up call to get back in relationship with God. They are going to join the very church that opened its doors as a disaster relief center.
God knows. He moves in mysterious ways. And, though we don't know the answers to "why did this have to happen like this," we only know it's all in His Hands. And we, who know Him and trust Him, simply have to REST in that.