In 2017, I got in my car and left my home with nothing but what could fit in my trunk.
My desire was to seek God in the earth, to find the people who needed Him and to shine light wherever I could. The world is starving for love , mercy, forgiveness and compassion. I didn’t know how I could help, but I knew that He was leading me out.
This was far from an impulsive decision. In April of 2014, the Lord set me out on my first cross-country journey of faith, and the impact of it never let me go. This is the story of my first road trip, and how God used it to show me my destiny.
The overwhelming thing I feel is exhaustion. Seems an exceptionally self-centered thing to say, as I have been here less than 24 hours and this landscape has been their reality for 7 weeks.
I had come to Moore, OK in the wake of a massive F5 tornado and on a persistent prompting from God. Armed with the address of a service organization, and still groggy from 22 hours of driving, I headed out into the heat this morning to find my mission.
I was first drawn to the school where 7 children had lost their lives. I was the only one there. I dropped to my knees in front of the crosses and well-wishes and wept. The sentiments hanging from the fence were gut-wrenching; from hope to despair and everything in between.
I was drawn to a guitar hanging from the fence, with words expressing his anguish. If the little ears that had died could not hear the music, the musician would never play again. He spoke the words of so many –
“had I known that would have been the last time I saw you…”
I drove through neighborhoods where homes had been. I walked across foundations, kneeling to touch phantom baseboards and praying for the families who had lived there. It is strange how accessible it all is, and I was careful to tiptoe and not step on anything. There is a required reverence when walking across someone else’s property, even if it has been destroyed.
In piles of indistinct rubble, an intact item would catch my eye – a set of hangers, a golf bag, a pair of converse sneakers, a beanbag chair. They were all stark reminders that until that moment, people LIVED in these homes. And then they were gone.
In one particularly graphic scene, the entire front of the home had ripped off, and like a dollhouse, the interior had been exposed – revealing closets full of clothes, and furniture destroyed by weather but still in place.
The photo would have been dramatic, but felt too personal.
I moved on.
As I stared across about 8 blocks, with a now unobstructed view, the enormity of this tornado, its sheer width, hit home. I couldn’t imagine the terror of being caught in something that big. And yet, there was a surreal dividing line – on one side, total devastation. Just a hundred feet away, a beautifully manicured, seemingly untouched home. The arbitrary unfairness of it all is overwhelming.
Stopping by the service organization, I was met with warm smiles and words of thanks. However, I was told that unless I was a contractor, my services were not really needed. For a moment, I stopped in my tracks, stunned – thinking, ” I spoke to you before I drove 22 hours – that’s why I came!”
But then I realized, it wasn’t why I came. I came because God asked me to. So I headed back out, now with no stated purpose. I wandered back to the school, drawn, but it was now bustling with activity. I sat at a table with my bible, and began to read and pray; listening to stories being told around me.
” I lost my daughter, and this is the only place I want to be.”
” My kids have nightmares every night, and scream out for their friends.”
They find solace in community, meeting at a makeshift tent called “Hope Station”, set up next to the school.
Hope Station is no stranger to this type of thing. Founder Stephanie is a whirlwind herself, a hyper-dedicated servant of Christ who travels from disaster to disaster ministering to the children. Through coloring and stories, they help the kids put words and emotions to their grief. It seems to work on adults too. People come and mingle just to be together, to share.
Kim noticed me several times, but it took 2 hours before she said anything. She asked me why I was there, and I told her. Her eyes filled with tears as she grasped my hand and said “thank you SO much for coming!” I came to find out that Kim was from Dallas, and with only two short breaks at home since the tornados, has been living out of her car and a local church basement. “I can’t go home to my nice house, and leave these kids”, she said.
Kim and I talked a long time. She asked me to go to church with her on Sunday. And she put me to work cleaning and unpacking t-shirts, for sale to raise money. “Please stay here and pray for a few days”, she pleaded. “Pray alone, pray the grounds, pray with people. We would love for you to be here with us”.
For two weeks, I was exactly where I needed to be.
And I knew, deep in my soul, that my life would never be the same.
John 15:8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.