28 May Alabama Tornado Relief Trip
A team of four women and two of their children from Grace recently assisted the tornado relief efforts in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The devastation to the residents of this city prompted this small group to quickly put a trip together. Their attitude to “go and serve” and engage the culture began without answers to where they would stay and what they would do.
It began without much formal guidance from church staff. The impact of the trip and the conclusions drawn by each can be witnessed in their individual impressions. Throughout these stories, this small group exhibited in a real way the connection between good deeds and the good news of the Gospel.
From Catherine Poe.
The trip was an answer to prayer as I have been struggling with how to give my life away and what that looks like being a wife, mom of three, and working part time. Everything came together for me including the blessing of my youngest whose 13th birthday would occur while I would be gone. I needed her to understand sometimes life is about others in need, even on her birthday, and that the people of Tuscaloosa were in need. I received confirmation of my decision to put my family second and answer the call to love my neighbor when posted on the refrigerator of our host was the following note: “A woman of purpose means not just hearing the word but living it out.”
It was amazing to see disaster relief at work and how many people came together for a common goal: to serve. Serving came in so many forms. One of my favorites was the people who came out with their grill to cook for the volunteers and residents. The smell of hamburgers and chicken cooking amidst the ruins brought a sense of comfort. Another was a Red Cross volunteer who believed retirement was not about comfort, but giving his life experience and gifts away to others in need.
And from Ginger Kumler.
I was given the privilege of walking through the shelter with a roll of masking tape and a marker to write the names on cots. I am humbled to think of the stories shared. It seemed as if they were giving me precious jewels and allowing me to share in the hope that God has a new plan for their lives. To be able to affirm them in this hope and provide them a warmer blanket or an extra pillow did more for me than it did for them. To stoop down in front of a disabled woman and look into her face as she described her efforts to move to a safe place in her home when the storm hit…to listen to a young single mom describe how her “dream home” had been destroyed, but that God must have something better in store for her…or to hear another woman, acknowledging the safety of all of her family but explaining the loss of everything else: “I haven’t lost anything…all my stuff is still at Wal-mart. I just have to go pick it up!”
And from Terri Anderson, the organizer of the trip and whose daughter lives in Tuscaloosa.
Talk about a real-life opportunity to “engage” others intentionally. We may have been there with the outward mission of meeting physical needs, but we were privileged to have deeper conversations. I got to love on little Jayquan. Catherine talked at length with a mother at the aid center, sharing herself and her Jesus. Ginger listened and gave caring attention to Terri, a disabled woman at the shelter. We met Tina from The Church at Tuscaloosa who found us a host home, connected us with supervisors at the work sites we visited, and toured us through the areas of devastation. She received us so warmly, treated us like family, and was an example of a servant putting others before self. We marveled at War B, an older gentleman who worked the entire day alongside us at the aid center. He told how he had lost his home but still had his life, and helping someone else was a much better option for him than sitting around in a hotel room by himself. We were led by Milton from Texas, a Red Cross volunteer who welcomed us, toured us around, and gave us assignments at a shelter operating out of the recreation building at a county park. Milton knew every volunteer, every job, and every need. He started volunteering with the Red Cross after seeing the need in his own state following a string of hurricanes several years ago. Since returning home, I have been disappointed in how the national media has moved on so quickly to the next story. I have wondered a little about my own motivation to go and help. I have questioned how to stay involved and generate interest in helping long-term? I don’t have any hard-and-fast answers, but the needs will last for many years and there are surely ways to serve with a Kingdom mindset.
And from Michelle Hortis.
As I reflect on my experience in Tuscaloosa, it so reminds me God’s hand is always present. For me, this is such a struggle when life just doesn’t seem to be going my way. I have no connection to Tuscaloosa and had never been to the state of Alabama either. When I first heard about the trip, I immediately wanted to g. Initial obedience is easy for me but when details get “tricky”, I am the first to just say forget it, its not worth the trouble. I am learning true obedience means obeying even when it is not easy. Seems as though I have to learn this lesson over and over and over………. God gave me the opportunity for my daughter, Cassie, to be a part of the trip. What an amazing opportunity for an almost 13 year old. For me to be able to see her serve others and for her to see and experience what she did was priceless. Life tends to make it hard for us to see the best in our children, but this trip gave me the chance to see Cassie’s heart as she walked around the supply distribution center handing out stuffed animals to children. It is hard to put into words my emotions as I saw the devastation and talked to those whose lives have been devastated. My word used most was “unbelievable” and that still seems to be the first word that comes to my mind. I feel blessed to have been a part of the small team that was hand picked by God.
In the coming months more opportunities to serve the people of Tuscaloosa will be available. To learn more about impacting your community, visit www.culturallyengaged.com.