As I continue to process the experiences from my time in Bowling Green, Kentucky serving in disaster relief response with IDES, I will try posting some “Jesus in the midst of disaster” stories as I get the opportunity.
Here are some thoughts from one cleanup experience:
No Place To Hide
On my phone is a photo of a child’s photo that serves as a reminder to me about praying for the children who experienced the chaos of disaster during the Christmas season. The subject of the photo is a happy-looking young girl that would appear to not have a care in the world. The photo itself, and its discovery, tell a different story.
The photo is a bit water-stained and blurred around the edges and was found in a home where the residents had come back to claim everything they wanted and we were told to clean out everything else as they were not coming back again — the trauma of seeing the neighborhood was just too much. The house, like most of those neighboring it, was missing most of its roof and had assorted debris all over the place both inside and out. As we carried rain-soaked furniture to the curb, I realized that most of the furniture were missing the cushions. As we cleaned further, we discovered two closets that had couch cushions, blankets, pillows, and comforters spilling out from the open doors — the apparent places of refuge as the tornado took its toll on the structure. As I cleaned out the closet in the room I was working in, I found a blood-stained pillow among all of the other padding. Fortunately I knew that this was not one of the homes that had experienced a fatality, but my heart went out to this family that I had never met that had evidently experienced an injury during the storm. They had done their best but found there was no place to fully hide.
As I continued to clean up debris and belongings, I prayed for those in this particular home who had been injured. I prayed for those in the neighborhood who would have physical and/or emotional wounds from their experiences. As I worked and prayed, I came across this young girl’s photo and some of the toys and belongings left behind in various rooms. I prayed for this girl’s family and the siblings she likely had based on the different sizes of clothing in the different closets. I prayed for those who seek refuge from the storms of life and feel they have no place to hide. This was an encounter that touched me deeply even though it was different than many of the other encounters I experienced. In this instance, I never met the individuals who had hid out in these closets during the storm. I didn’t have the opportunity to listen to their story or to pray with them about the comfort that is available through having peace with God. Yet through the cleanup process and my prayer time, their story had no place to hide as I prayed for them in the very closets they hid in and under the open sky where their roof used to be.
And in a big way, this photo I have of one young girl serves as both a reminder, and as a representative, of the need to continually pray for the comfort and healing of many children who need to know God is a refuge where they can hide and a very present help in time of need.