Friday, May 13, 2011

The Storms of Life

[Prologue]Since I had started the previous post ("November? Really?") a month ago, I decided to go ahead and post it just like I had left it the last time I was editing it on April 6th. (And even though Blogger had a severe glitch yesterday, the post was saved because I created it last month.  So, I just re-posted.) I couldn't get the "Publish Post" button to work that original day in April for some reason, and so I just got busy again and forgot about the post until I came here yesterday... determined to post something since I have been away so long.  [end]

God never promised that this life would be easy, and He knows just how awful it can be from walking this earth in human flesh. So, why am I surprised when the storms of life come? I guess it's because I would really like to live in the fairytale world of happily-ever-after NOW, instead of when I reach heaven. Our hearts long for that, and we do everything we can to bring love, beauty, and even perfection (whatever our version of that happens to be) to our little corners of the world. But, sometimes the storms of life come, and we have absolutely no control over them. We may be doing EVERYTHING right and still be staring devastation in the face.

Such is the case here in Alabama, in the aftermath of the tornadoes of April 27th.  When the Federal Government declares 39 out of 67 counties to be Federal Disaster Areas, you know that it was bad. I have personally never seen with my own eyes destruction from the elements like I have witnessed in the wake of this latest group of storms. When someone mentions the word Supercell Tornadoes in the future, you can be sure we will take the appropriate safety measures. Unfortunately, in this storm many did just that, yet they still lost loved ones and homes... whole communities destroyed.

The community in which I lived and ministered for over 20 years was utterly devastated. I have lived about 20 miles away from this community for the past 6 years, but there are four families in our current church family who live (or lived) there. Two of our four families lost their homes. As we drove through the area on our way to help these families salvage what they could, I could hardly recognize the town I had lived in for so long. How does that happen... and all in about 5 minutes? It is too much to try to wrap your mind around. In some places, for as far as you can see in front and back of you, there are NO tops of trees. Can you imagine that? Would you want to have to walk out your front door to that each day? I know I wouldn't... yet, some of these people (i.e. the ones who didn't lose their homes) will have to continue to do just that. Why, you may ask? I certainly have, and there are no easy answers.

This Supercell spawned 308 tornadoes and killed 243 people in Alabama alone. The most devastating of these tornadoes ravaged a path of destruction spanning the entire width of the state of Alabama, and at times it was a mile wide. The Super Cell was so devastating that it now has its own Wikipedia page which states, "An extremely large and violent tornado outbreak, the largest in United States history[citation needed], occured from April 25 to 28, 2011, affecting the Southern, Midwestern, and Northeastern United States, leaving catastrophic destruction in its wake, especially across the state of Alabama."

Those words do not begin to describe what I have seen with my own eyes. It destroyed both Pleasant Grove (the place in which I lived and ministered for 20 years) and my beloved college town of Tuscaloosa. So many have lost so much.

And yet, I have seen God's people at their very best. The faith community has gathered around these people and tried to provide for every need. Our particular community has first-hand experience at this, having been some of the first to get into the Gulf Coast (and still ministering there) after Hurricane Katrina. So, God has His people ready, prepared to show His love, to be hands and feet in a devastating and rapidly deteriorating world. No matter how much we would want to bring our idea of perfection, beauty, and love to our corner of the world, only He can really do that. And for now, He is choosing to use His servants to minister and bring hope into a place for which -- from all outward appearances -- there is no hope.

If you think of it, pray for us as we strive to bring His love, His hope, and His healing to a very broken place. We are clinging to His promises...

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." - John 16:33