…Now My Eyes See You…

It has been hard for me to find the words to blog. The destruction of an F5 tornado is beyond words. You see images on television and in the news, but nothing can prepare you for what it really looks like. I wish you could really grasp the pictures you see that show metal wrapped around trees like tin foil. It does not appear like much when I look back at the pictures – it is only the reality of what it is, that affects me.

This is metal – solid metal roofing from homes, the sides of buildings, and mobile homes. Yet in the fingers of an F5, it was like tin foil in the hands of a man. Several tornado victims referred to seeing the F5 approaching and that is was like dark fingers as it closed in. Eerie, terrifying.  I could only begin to imagine the fingers of this killing beast as it tore apart homes and lives as if they were toys. The vivid images of what I saw in video combined with the horrific stories of survivors broke my heart, and left me in awe of the force of these monsters.

As you can see, a brick home was a child’s Lincoln logs against the force of the winds. I heard of the concrete foundations being ripped up in places. And basements – many died in their basements as the house caved in on top of them.

The monster force lifted huge trees from their roots and dropped them, as you can see from this picture. Notice that the tree does not have a large hole around it. It was obviously lifted up clean from its roots and dropped back in to lay on it’s side in the hole. You only see a small part of what I witnessed about this mammoth tree. I thought of Job 41:8-10, as the Lord spoke rebuked Job with conversations of the strength of Leviathan.

   Lay your hands on him;
remember the battle—you will not do it again!
       Behold, the hope of a man is false;
he is laid low even at the sight of him.
       No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up.
Who then is he who can stand before me? 

Those that were in the 1/2 mile wedge of this tornado could not stand before it – only the mercy and grace of God, and by His hand were some spared. 

The stories are too many to share, and confidentiality as well as respect for those suffering prevents  me from more but the most vague information. I just pray that you can close your eyes and imagine the indescribable noise of a half mile wide tornado that can do this kind of destruction – seeing it approaching, no time to run, hearing and seeing family members sucked into the air, hearing the screams, cars being lifted before your eyes with loved ones in them, digging through rubble to find an elderly neighbor that was there moments before, hiding in a closet while the building collapses around you killing all others…your wife dead, child dead, husband dead, aunts, uncles, cousins friends. And all of this happens in a small town where many have lived for generations. The rescue squad loses members and those who are digging through the rubble are friends, and related to many. You search for family members for hours, some not found for days, some are still missing. Others find there loved ones – in conditions I won’t repeat.

Then imagine going back to dig through the piles that are left to try and find identification papers. And today, one month later, you are still waiting for housing, trying to rebuild your life, that will never ever be the same.  

Wrangler factory. Notice 18 wheeler on top of the debris

Elderly people who lived their whole lives in the same home, now gone. Many did not have insurance – the homes had passed on, or they have worked hard to get them paid off, and they were too poor to have insurance. Most did not have comprehensive on their cars – do you? We can’t afford it either. 

Many worked for the Wrangler factory now gone –  I pray Wrangler rebuilds.  The town is gone, the stores are gone.

One young man who lost his wife, I have taken a particular interest in – his whole life has been painful and his present is filled with overwhelming grief. He tries to go on as he cries through his story, “Yes man, Jesus is my Lord and Savior.” If you knew his story and depth of his pain you would understand why I ask him, “You are not thinking about taking you life ___ are you?” “No mam. I would not sin against Jesus like that. He is my Lord and Savior and my only reason for living.”  

So many faith filled Christians are here. This is one of the few “dry” counties left. No alcohol sold. I have prayed for everyone I met, and cried with most. My prayer has been more than once, that each of them, like Job, would be able to say that they new Him by the hearing of the ear, but now, after love and mercy of God, they will truly see him. 

Now my prayer has been that God will send those who have this vision to help us in ministry – to see chaplains spread through the country and enough help to go around. There is never enough help to go around in this kind of thing. As I serve here, I think of Joplin and wish I could be there too – or send others from Hesed teams. I believe we will deploy to Joplin, I believe we may return here. The work will continue for months. The love and presence of Christ will be needed for months.

As for the Salvation Army. I am honored to be working with this loving and dedicated group of individuals. They serve Jesus from a pure, committed and sacrificial heart. The more I learn about them, the more I admire them.  The army provides food, clothing, help with housing, prescriptions – you name it – they try to provide.  I whole heartedly endorse them and their financial support. They are above board and full of the integrity expected by those who call upon the name of Jesus. 

Today is the one month anniversary of the disaster, and high school graduations took place. It was a sad day for many. 

Tomorrow or Sunday I will blog the miracle stories – the happy ending, or the mixed blessings. 

Until them, may God grant us the love to give all for the sake of Jesus. To be his hands and feet, to shine His light. To be willing to live, or die for His name. Amen. 

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