We all saw them on May 19th. They touched down between our favorite television shows, on our newspapers and radios, and tore through our Twitter accounts – piercing our hearts with sadness, worry, and for some, even guilt. And they’re still here, though their presence is less pronounced. Newer stories push them out and take their place. And whether we like it or not, they lift and vanish from our lives almost as fast as they touched down.
This, however, is not the case for the people of Moore, Oklahoma. Rather, on May 19, 2013, tornadoes touched down in their backyards, schools, businesses and churches – tearing their lives apart, and ending the lives of 24. The people of Moore now sit among demolished houses that look like nothing more than lumber thrown about haphazardly, cars gnarled and pitched as if they were toys, wilted pictures of loved ones spread around town like refuse, and tornado cellars filled with rainwater and horrible memories.
But the people of Moore are not alone. Volunteers from all over the country have flocked to the city. And some of our own were a part of this. This past weekend, two volunteer teams from Austin Stone Community Church piled into their cars and headed up to Moore, Oklahoma. As the volunteers watched the land unfurl around them through their car windows, everything was ordered and sat in its right place. But as they entered Moore, things changed rapidly.
Huge swaths of the city were carved out by tornadoes, leaving piles of debris that used to be houses, or simply naked slabs. Among all of this destruction, the victims either tried to make sense of it all, or worked frantically to save what they could. And from the time the Austin Stone volunteers stepped out of their cars, they worked – helping the victims to clean up the rubble, sifting through it all to find salvageable items, photos or mementos. As they worked, they doled out hugs and encouraged both smiles and tears. They endeavored to be with the victims in their time of need, to share the love of Jesus at every opportunity, and to saturate the city with prayers.
These two teams of Austin Stone volunteers didn’t allow the tornadoes to impersonally tear through their Twitter accounts and vanish almost as fast as they touched down. Rather, they went and looked into the eyes of the people of Moore and heard Jesus’ words: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me.”
So, we have questions to consider. What can we do to help the people of Moore? How can we reflect God’s glory and help spread the gospel to people who desperately need it, as we all do?
Our options are clear: We can pray, we can give, and we can go.
But whatever we do, let’s not allow this tragedy to impersonally dip in and out of our lives with the brevity of a tweet. Let’s make this intensely personal. Let’s look into these victims’ eyes and heed the words of Jesus.