I am not one that boasts about the things that I do nor am I boasting now but I would like to share with you my experience of being in the mist of the devastation and tragedy of a place called Moore, OK.
Moore is a town of roughly 50,000 people. I do not know what the place looked like prior to May 20, 2013 but I know what it looked like a month later on the one month anniversary,June 20th.
I went with a team of 7 from my church. An amazing group of people. The time that we worked together was, in my opinion, not long enough. I did not want to leave but family and other responsibilities was calling each one of us back to our homes. I don’t think that I am speaking out of turn when I say that each one of us left a little piece of our hearts in Moore, OK.
One experience in particular was working for a home owner named Moreen. She was a beautiful African women who carried a British accent with such class and grace. I could listen to her talk for hours. We helped clear her property and clean out her possessions from within her home in preparation for demolition. Her house from the outside seemed to be salvageable but what was unseen was that the foundation had been compromised and her home was on a list to be taken down and discarded. She would not rebuild and was not sure if she was going to stay in that area. She was not bitter. In contrast her smile was contagious and the joy that she permeated from herself made you want to be around her. Through out the course of the day when she was among our group she said two of my favorite words, “But God!” “But God” she said, “He has a plan in all this.” Oh, what two beautiful words…But God… Our time with her was coming to an end and as we said our goodbyes and walking to our van she hollered these words, “Please do not forget me in your prayers.” This grips me to the core because I have not been diligent in my prayers for her. I go on with my own life tending to my own family. It is so easy for us to leave someone who has been affected by a devastating blow and quickly forget them days later.
Another day that we were there we drove around one of the neighborhoods that did not have one house left standing. We saw a lady going through some rubble where her brother-in-law’s house use to stand. We told her that we couldn’t do much but we had rakes and shovels and able bodies that where willing to help. She explained that her brother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer and that the cancer has spread to other parts of his body. The family was unable to pay someone to bull doze the pile of debri that use to be there home and move it to the curb in order for the city to pick it. She has been doing this labor intense work herself with some help from other ministries and neighbors. We were more than eager to jump right in and help. So we began with shovel in hand little by little putting what once use to be someone’s home to the curb for removal. In this process the sister showed us a video that the news did on her family and in that video there was a small child shoveling what use to be there home. I asked her who the small child was and her response gripped my heart! This young girl 8 or 9 years old came with her mother from Shawnee, OK. They too were hit by this devastating tornado. When asked why they came to more there response was “Shawnee is O.K. but Moore needed our help.” Can you believe that? A young girl leaving what she knew because there were people that was worse off then she was. Tears just fill my eyes when I think about that.
I observed multiple houses that declared “God is still good!”, “Jesus loves you”, “The tornado took our home but can’t take our heart.” These were sprayed painted on the houses that may have a wall left or half a roof. This is the cry of Moore, OK. These are the people that live here.
The memorial for the 7 young souls that lost there lives at the elementary school will be a sight that will forever be burned in my mind. A line of volunteers t-shirts have made a wall on the fence guarding the 7 precious cross’s that bare the name of each child. To be there…to be there…as tears fill my eyes I can’t fully explain what it is like to be there. It is an overwhelming feeling that captures the inner most part of your heart. Each cross has a plack and engraved is each child’s name. I cannot tell you how many times I read there precious little names and thought of my own children. Anguish for the reality of the terror that these children and the one’s that survived must have faced. That day many parents dropped there children off at school never to see them again. No more bedtime stories, or goodnight kisses, no more little faces staring at you in the morning waiting for you to open your eyes and wake up, no more play dates, and mommy dates, no more hugs and little whispers that say, “I love you mommy.”
Moore, OK…Many lives there will never be the same…BUT GOD…is your strength, your comfort, your very present help in time of need. There is no other. God is the HOPE of Moore. The HOPE that they will rebuild, they will be restored, they will heal and that life does move forward. Jesus Christ is the HOPE of Moore and it is evident with the writing on the wall of many of the homes. Another one being “Jesus Saves”. I cannot think of a better way to end that with these words, “Jesus Saves, He is the HOPE of Moore, OK.”
You have one life. Do something.
To Lisa whose driving quickly enhanced my prayer life. Your heart to “help people” is amazing and I am so blessed to be able to call you my friend. To Genie whose gentle quiet spirit and love for things pure is to be admired. You and I are truly kindred spirits. To Tony who most of the time was quiet but when you spoke everyone listened. I enjoyed working with you my friend. To Jim who made me constantly laugh. To Carl whose child like faith is inspiring. May the Lord bless you with all wisdom as you continue to seek Him. Your faith is contagious. To Gordy who joined us while we were there. You quickly became one of us and it was a pleasure getting to know you. And last but certainly not least my precious daughter, Jamie. I am so very proud of you. Your heart to serve will take you many places as you seek your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Always follow after Him.