Starting to Pick Up the Pieces
Last week, no less than thirty tornados hit the Dayton area and destroyed or damaged no less than 2,500 homes! Like many of you, I’ve received calls and text messages from loved ones all over the country and even outside the country. They all seem to ask the same three questions.
Question #1: “Is everyone ok?”
By God’s grace, no one in the Dayton area lost a life. Yet thousands of lives will never be the same. To know how deeply and personally those impacted by it is almost overwhelming. It is not simply a 30 second news story. It is a life event where things will never be the same. The images on the news don’t do justice to the damage. The newspaper may show a photo, but it does not show the block after block after block of destruction and the hopelessness of those impacted.
Question #2: “How can we help?”
I have been overwhelmed by those inside and outside our church looking for opportunities to provide relief. Here are a few observations:
You have to be a self-starter to serve. Many people wait on everything to be planned out before starting. There is a time for planning, but there are times for figuring it out on the job! I asked a good friend of mine, Steve Bowen, how we can serve. He said, “Just show up, bring some work gloves and chainsaws and tell people you are there to help.” In other words, just be present and available.
Recovery is a marathon. It will take months, even years, to rebuild what was destroyed in a matter of seconds. It’s been said that 10% of the recovery work will be done the first week and 90% over the next few months. This is similar to a marathon — really crowded at the start and lonely at the finish. The goal is to not just start, but to go the distance — to be there for the finish. We must look for ways to make long-term impact.
Everyone has a story. Much of the recovery work is helping people work through their experiences by listening. Listening to people share is one way to make victims feel valued, loved and heard. Insurance can help people piece their houses back together, but listening to people helps them piece their lives back together.
People, even un-churched people, want to serve. Most people want to make a difference, but they just don’t know where to start, who to serve with, or where to serve. I was pleasantly surprised when people who don’t attend our church showed up to serve. “We just want to help and saw that you are doing something. Can we join you?”
Question #3: “How is the community pulling together?”
If you are from Dayton, you realize that we have had some enormous challenges over the years. Yet, it was so overwhelmingly gratifying to see how those from all over our community put down their boxing gloves and picked up their work gloves. Last Saturday, we served with another church, a sorority and a biker group — all at the same time. We just showed up, served together and had a blast. Many folks in the media project an image of chaos in our community. Yet we are seeing thousands of people looking for an opportunity to serve others. This storm could have shown us at our worst, but it has brought out the best in us!