Natural disasters are a well, naturally occurring thing; taking place on every hemisphere, in every square mile, and in every country. It is inevitable. Storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. are going to hit wherever you may live. Causing particularly large damage to homes and businesses and unforeseen financial costs. Mass amounts of grief are felt by the survivors of these disasters, and I particularly saw that grief today working with Convoy of Hope in the Moore/El Rino area here in the state of Oklahoma where numerous EF4 and 5 tornadoes struck just a few weeks ago. Initially, I saw the aftermath of these storms through the media and was sympathetic but yet I felt that I couldn’t help personally with the relief effort. Thankfully, my absolutely amazing mentor and pastor Jerrod Murr with help of his colleagues found a relief group and diligently asked the youth like myself if we wanted to participate and I graciously accepted. I knew what I was expecting, but the magnitude of what I witnessed and learned in that trip was as usual: astronomical.
Getting to the site wasn’t a difficult task. It was quick and to the point. We received entertainment from a few games, the trip of roughly two hours felt like a mere thirty minutes. We met up with a partnering church and made our way to the aftermath site. Shock and awe followed. Receiving t-shirts and immediately heading out; we collectively picked up masses of strung out insulation, particle board, and the particularly heart wrenching personal items. Progressing quick as there is much strength in numbers. The amount of personal items were slim, but a few stuck out in particular. Coloring pages were strewn out for yards, each color sloppily inside the lines just as the usual child struggles to keep their hand steady, personal photos sparingly embedded in grass or dirt, clothes, toys, a scrapbook page, a tattered bible, and much more. Personal belongings exposed to outside conditions. As if life was abruptly stopped by this massive twister, there’s no preparation like in hurricanes. These are sadly unforeseen forces of destruction.
The mood was clouds of understanding and responsiveness. Hearing the touching stories of the survivors opens your eyes and can really give you a glimpse of how they’re feeling. One woman spoke to a group of us and said that when the tornado hit, her family and neighboring families squished into one storm shelter and as the tornado struck, they sang Amazing Grace in unison and as loud as they could. As even in the scariest of times, they kept faith. This absolutely touched me in more ways than one. Emotions were high as the father from one family had to step away for a brief period as he stated, “Couldn’t stand to watch what [he] worked so hard for be tossed to the curb.” I couldn’t imagine. I spoke briefly with the wife and shared a few of my Katrina survival stories and she thanked me many times over for speaking with her. She connected with me on a level as I understood how it felt also having my house destroyed eight years earlier. Younger women of the youth sat down with a child of the family and spoke with him on how he felt on the entire situation, comforting as well as they could. The homes were sparingly destroyed as if the tornado chose which one it was going to hit. Bare foundations were next to still standing homes. Steps and porches led to nowhere. Exposed attics with visible belongings. A particular house in which was weathered badly, but yet a new American flag waved out front, displaying hope and patriotism as these survivors acclimate to ‘The New Normal’ as one man put it. Work dislodged showers of dust that of course mingled with the sweat and rain that had clung to the skin. Eventually the rain made it harder to continue and we had to stop. I would’ve continued but the day was done.
As a volunteer to such disasters, there are many lessons and enlightening realizations that can be learned. You make many new friends as the day progresses, laughing and going along, it enlightens the mood. This is so enjoyable. Joyfully giving is my absolute favorite thing to do, it not only improves your outlook on things, but it also improves the outlook on others. Everything has either a direct or indirect connection with another and smiling and making light of a particularly awful situation indirectly affects the mood of the survivors in a positive way. Every story counts, as each one no matter how big or small paints a larger picture of what truly happened there. That’s nothing the media can even compete with. Unfortunately, disasters such as this one will happen again, and again, and again; however, I will be right there ready to assist in any way I possibly can and at all costs. Sharing God’s love with everyone is truly an extraordinary thing. It not only brings you closer, but it brings others as well. Showing that nothing, even a destructive tornado, can put a dent in the love that humanity has for one another, and for me. Missions is absolutely a cause that I will never lose devotion to and that is absolutely a pursuit worth it In the End.