It has been quite a week around here. You see, I am from Oklahoma.
When I left for work Monday morning, I called my dad and asked him to keep me informed about the weather. I could tell that we were in for a severe weather day, but never did I dream that it would be as horrific as it was. My dad called about 1:30 and told me the storms were beginning to fire, so I headed home early. My parents went toward the school to pick up my kids. Despite getting caught in some small hail, we all made it home safely.
Minutes after I walked in the door, I heard the words, “Tornado forming.” I watched in horror as a small tornado formed just a couple miles south of my house and headed directly for my brother’s dental office. I texted. I waited. I watched. Over the next few minutes (which seemed like hours), I wondered if he was safe. There was no response to my text, and I could tell the tornado was causing significant damage. The meteorologists were no longer telling people to go to the center of the home; they were warning people to be underground. It was obvious this was no ordinary tornado. This tornado was a repeat of May 3, 1999–a once in a lifetime tornado event…or so we thought.
I finally went to my parents’ house to see if they had heard from my brother. Their faces were drained of all color, and the tears were streaming down their faces. Fortunately, they were the tears of relief–the tears that released the stress that had built up while they were waiting to hear if he was OK. After what truly seemed like hours, they had gotten a call saying he–and his office–were fine. The tornado turned and went north of them, missing them by only a 100 yards or so.
For the next few hours, we were glued to the television. The destruction was unimaginable. The devastation was overwhelming. The feeling was helpless. I wanted so desperately to go help, just to do something. But, I knew that the Newcastle area was blocked off, and I was certain the Moore area was impassable.
As the days have worn on, we have learned of the deaths of 24 people. We have heard the horrific stories of children trapped in their school. We have seen the pictures of houses simply leveled. We have spoken to friends who tell stories of escape.
A friend from college lost everything. As she emerged from the storm shelter, she said the words to the song “Praise You In This Storm” were going through her mind:
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
(HERMS, BERNIE / HALL, MARK)
When people ask, “Where is God in this disaster?” there is an answer. He is holding every tear in His hand. He is reaching down and wrapping His children in His arms. He is standing ready to be the security in the face of uncertainty. He is the refuge and strength in the midst of chaos. He is the healer of wounds. He is the comforter of the grieving. He is the restorer of all things lost. He is whatever people need exactly when they need it. He is the Great I AM.
Today I had to go to Norman for work before I went north to my normal work location. The best way from Norman to south Oklahoma City is through Moore. As I got in my car and headed north on I-35, I mentally prepared myself for the devastation that I was going to see. Sure enough, my bank was gone. The movie theater is quickly being repaired. The hospital where I frequently see patients is mangled. People were out in their yards trying to salvage what is left of their earthly belongings. It was utter devastation as far as the eye could see.
What I was not prepared for was the assistance. In Norman, I drove past Journey Church. In their parking lot stood hundreds of people. There were thousands of cases of bottled water. Semi trailers stood waiting to be loaded. A few miles up the road was Hillsdale Bible College. Their parking lot was also filled with volunteers and supplies. A little farther up the road stood First Baptist Church of Moore. Not only was their parking lot filled with supplies and volunteers, but thousands came out to support the family having the funeral of their young child who was killed in the tornado. There was a traffic jam in the parking lot as cars lined up as far as the eye could see. Many of these people had showed up simply to support the family and block the Westboro people who were planning to protest the funeral.
You see, in the midst of devastation, we as Christians are to be a light to a lost and dying world. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ. We are to be the arms wrapping people in love. We need to cry with those who mourn. We need to rejoice with those who rejoice. We need to be a living Bible for the world to see.
A friend from high school (who has never been a very religious person) had some damage at his house, although he did not lose anything. A group of people from a church showed up in the area ready to help those affected, but they were not allowed in. So, they saw my friend and decided to help him pick up the debris that littered his house. He was shocked that they so willingly pitched in to help him when there were so many more who needed their help. But, that’s what Christ would do. The witness of those precious people willing to serve ANYWHERE spoke volumes to one who needs to know Christ. It’s too bad that it often takes a major disaster for the lost to see this example.
On the way to school a couple days after the tornado, my kids and I were having a discussion about the tornado.
“What do you think God does when there is a tornado?” one of the kids asked.
Before I could say anything, my 11-year-old responded, “He makes good come out of it.”
Yes, son, you are correct.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28