It’s been three weeks since tornadoes ravaged neighborhoods in Central Oklahoma. The sides of the road are still littered with the ripped remnants of shredded homes. Here in McLoud, a rural community about 30 minutes from Moore, weary, grimy relief workers and shell-shocked families stream in to Fellowship Hall for a hot meal and an encouraging word.
Emmanuel Baptist has transformed from a small rural church to a food pantry, supply closet, mess hall and prayer chapel. At the helm of the serving is Amy, a mom and military wife who only moved to the community six weeks ago. While making sure some latecomers to lunch got a fresh plate of chicken and rice, she told me her story. “Our first time at this church was the day of the tornadoes. We sustained damage to our own home, so it took me a week to get here to serve.”
She keeps a smile on her face despite the grueling schedule. “This week has been good so far. We’ve had help. Last week, I was worried – there were so few of us to work.”
The work is basic,“hard work, not hero work,” if you quote the woman from Shawnee who checked in to do debris removal down the road from Emmanuel. It seems more than a few folks have shown up ready to save the day rather than serve anonymously. And the real work doesn’t provide a lot of room for notoriety. Our team doctored up Red Cross-provided baked beans, chopped fruit, served lunch to more than 250 workers, helped sort donations, cleaned, and even crafted stuffing from hamburger buns and cobbler from FEMA apples to make the next day’s lunch a little easier for Amy and her team.
“Things have been good, but I’m not sure what happens after Friday,” Amy shared. “Red Cross pulls out on Friday. They’ve provided a lot of the food. And Saturdays are our busiest days – we don’t have a team to serve here yet.”
She shared that the rebuilding teams will be arriving soon and will stay through at least August, and Emmanuel will be caring for them all summer. “We’re not sure how we’re going to do it, but we’re going to serve them. The Lord keeps meeting needs we don’t even realize we have – He’s provided everything from a refrigerator trailer to tools and supplies. Even volunteers show up at just the right time. I know He’ll take care of this too.”
She smiles and looks at her small team – a group of church members who, like her, are slowly seeing restoration happen to their homes, their families, and the little church that has become the center of town for so many. “I’m just a stay-at-home mom. This was never part of my plan. Most days, I don’t have a schedule set in my life – but today I do. And tomorrow, I know where I’ll be.”
If you want to be part of the hard work in rebuilding Oklahoma, let me know. I’ll connect you to folks who can help you find the right place to serve.