Last Wednesday will stand as one of the worst weather days in Alabama history. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, I was used to tornadoes. They would pop in and out at will, taking down one house while completely leaving the one next door untouched. We would marvel at the seeming precision of those twisters. Never before had Alabama seen a tornado stay on the ground the way this killer tornado did.
The day started out with storms that wreaked havoc on communities, but they would not match the ones to come later in the day and into the night. As we watched the footage coming out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama we were all dumbstruck by the sheer power of this storm. This storm that was now heading to our town.
Since that day, I have seen video after video and photo after photo of the devastation left in the wake of the storms that ravaged our state. One in particular, a friend had posted on her Facebook page with the warning to turn down the sound on the computer while watching. The young videographers were not meteorologists or professional storm chasers. They were college kids from Tuscaloosa. Like most college kids they had more time than good sense, and had chosen to head out into the storm with their video camera. I’m sure their parents will fall flat out when they see this video.
These kids got dangerously close to the tornado that chewed up their town. They were awestruck by its power, but still did not have the maturity to see the real danger they were in. That said, their footage is amazing. At one point, they stopped their vehicle on the highway and watched and filmed the twister as it headed toward them. In a panic, one student (using some really colorful language- hence the warning to turn the sound down) pleaded with the driver to back up out of the way. Finally, the driver complied, and the tornado crossed the highway in the exact spot where they had been.
Continuing in their amazement, they decided to go check out the destruction the storm had caused up ahead. What they saw is disturbing, but they still marveled at it all, they were completely taken by surprise when a woman appeared from nowhere screaming for their help.
She had been in the path of the storm and had managed to survive, but she was hysterical.
They let her into their car, and tried to let her use their cell phone, but she was too unhinged to dial it herself. It was not until then that these foolish would-be storm chasers realized the human element in the equation. They realized then, that there must indeed be more people suffering, and worse, in the path of this storm. The realization instantly changed the mood in their car, and a small measure of maturity set in.
That realization has now hit everyone. As the stories of destruction, loss, and survival came in the understanding became clear that so many people would be in need of help. I watched interviews of local and state officials calling upon the federal government for help, and as I did there was a stirring in my heart that said,
This is not the time for the government to stand up. It is time for the church to stand up. It all comes down to the church being the church. So many of us here in the south go to church because it’s the “Southern” thing to do. Its time to stop just “going” to church and starting “being” the church as well. We are the hands and feet of Christ. We are His army, here to show his sacrificial love and power. Governments fail, but God never does. What an opportunity to allow God’s glory to shine through his church to reach out to those in need with His great love.
I was blessed to see this in motion yesterday as I worked in Hueytown at a distribution center set up by Church of the Highlands. The stacks of bottled water were higher than my head. The donations of food, clothing and personal care items filled the abandoned car dealership where we were working. My kids and I worked most of the day with people we had never met. I didn’t even find out their names, nor they mine. It wasn’t important who we were. It was important who Jesus is, and that because of Him we were compelled to help.
We filled truck after truck with items needed by those who had lost everything. Each item put on the truck by the hands of Christ. Each case of water delivered by His feet. At the end of the day, as I rode back to the Birmingham Dream Center, (http://churchofthehighlands.com/dream-center) we passed by church after church with people just like me giving their time, money, and items to those in need. I saw disaster relief trucks from Samaritan’s Purse and other Christian disaster relief organizations. God’s army is on the move. Won’t you stand up and join the forces? Will you be the church?
Yes, let’s stop merely going to church and forevermore be the church….