Jesus, Joplin, Justification

Truck – chassis wrapped completely around the tree.

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

Hospital in Joplin – completely destroye

I cried during worship today. I turned and saw my son-in-law Matt holding our 3 year old daughter Keira and thoughts of Alabama and Joplin flooded in. The unwanted image of a 3 year old child being sucked out of her mothers arms assaulted me as I sang about how awesome our God is. I can still feel the tears that fell on my arm as I prayed for the individual who told me the story – and the helplessness that was in his eyes.  I vividly recalled the young women who found the remains of her grandfather – complete with all the horribly gory details that I never imagined I would choose to hear in this lifetime. There was the young women who spoke of climbing over bodies of her friends after her apartment was leveled; or the story of the mom with her 3 children climbing over bodies and twisted metal to flee a destroyed  building – she is terrified to leave her children now for the traumatic responses it causes. The man who ran with his newborn infant in his arms and the screams of his wife became distant. He turned and realized – she was gone – sucked up into the whirlwind. The multitudes of children who now look daily at once green yards and trees that they climbed,  turned into a barren wasteland of debris, and stripped, dead, trees – many are now afraid of the storms.

All that is left standing – the cross

Jesus wept. Quite possibly my favorite scripture.

Our God is awesome, and Jesus is our wounded healer. As we sang praises about how great and wonderful our God is, I know I sing more loudly, more passionately and with more conviction than ever before. For the last 4 years, every death call, every intervention, every prayer offered on behalf of hurting humanity – only brings me closer to the suffering Savior and his redemptive work on the cross. The people who didn’t think they needed a ‘god’ find themselves thanking Him, or tell the tale of crying out to Him for mercy during the storm and feeling the presence of an ‘unseen power’ in their midst. The multitude who lived through the unlivable, praise the God they did not know for the things that He did in preserving their lives. As my WWII, Normandy Beach, D-Day, Dad used to say, “You don’t find athiests in a foxhole.” There were a lot of foxholes in Alabama and Joplin.

The number of deaths in Joplin do not measure the total destruction to large areas of the city. F5’s are without partiality or mercy in their devastation. Many survivors know this, and praise Him.  There are death stories – but there are a multitude of life stories – thousands of them in several states. God causes the sun to rise on the just and un-just alike. Why do some live while others die? Only God knows – we are here to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.(Rom. 12:15) To comfort others with the comfort we have ourselves been comforted with. (II Cor. 1:3) We are chaplains, “for such a time as this.” (Es. 4:14)

I was given permission to share Richie’s story. I am partial to Richie since he shares the same name as my favorite songwriter. Richie lived through Katrina and Rita, and moved north to Joplin 3 years ago. Richie’s house was moved about 10 feet from it’s foundation while he and his wife and two grandchildren huddled in the hallway. The house is destroyed and will be bulldozed. They are now living in a pop-up trailer. I met Richie as I walked an area looking for families to help. Richie was being helped by a church group cutting down trees when I met him. As we spoke, he mentioned he hadn’t had a chance to really share his story yet – he had been so busy with taking care of the necessary, he had not had time for the truly necessary – his emotional and spiritual state. Richie teared up when I told him I had all day if he needed, and he began to pour out his heart. Katrina was tough, but he was a seaman – he was ready and they evacuated. He knew how to handle hurricanes. But they have moved up here to get away from the storms – going through two was enough. There had been enough losses in his life already. He was agitated, nervous, having trouble sleeping – to name a few. We covered a lot of critical incident stress information and I left him with handouts. He was thankful to learn he was not going crazy, but his reactions were normal, for the event.

Notice foundation to the right – destroyed house is to the left of the trailer.

I prayed with Richie and he teared up again – he then spoke about his faith having been increased by the storm, and knowing God was real. It was an opportunity for me to talk about Jesus and His presence and Richie listened attentively. He knew that God was with him, but he needed to know that he was with God – a son of God – loved by God. We prayed again, and Richie understood that his relationship with God was sealed by Jesus – his covenant was sure – he was justified by his faith in Jesus.

“Suffering produces endurance…” What a blessing it is to come alongside the suffering and help them to endure the race set before them. God’s love has and is being poured into the hearts of the suffering – believers and unbelievers alike. What a privilege to be a minister of the hope of Jesus to others, by being a living, breathing presence of the hope of Jesus Christ in action. Thank you Lord for an opportunity to serve the ones you suffered for.

We need trained team members. If you are anyone you know is CISM trained and wants to serve with us, please pass this one. If you are ready to begin CISM training and working with us,  you know where to find us. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. We are praying diligently for workers to join us in the harvest.

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 5:1–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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