Thoughts from Oklahoma: “Above the Skies”

When I arrived home from Oklahoma, some of the images still went through my mind and heart. Out of those images and the experiences, a song came out!

Above the Skies

2013 Oklahoma Tornadoes

Verse 1

I look outside my window

See the hopeless faces staring

They’re looking for a place to go.

And when your life gets shaken,

Everything you know is taken

That just leaves one last thing to know…

Chorus

And I know, I know this life has trouble

Pressing down on my tomorrow

But, I know my God’s above the skies!

And I know, I know through all this yearning

More about Your grace I’m learning

But, I know my God’s above the skies!

Above the skies, above the skies!

Verse 2

I see an Army waiting

Lives are changing, God’s creating

Hope out into this world in need.

From every corner moving

Hands and feet of Christ are loving

To His loud voice is all they heed.

Chorus

The recording is awful but it gives you an idea! You can click here to listen to it or post this in your browser: https://www.dropbox.com/s/18ui4ktw73z3sgs/Above%20the%20Skies%20%282013%20Oklahoma%20Tornadoes%29.m4a

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 10-Spiritual Care Ground Forces

The Salvation Army is constantly evolving and changing the way it responds to disasters! Due to the impact that this tornado had on the people in this area, The Salvation Army wanted to make the Emotional and Spiritual Care support to be a priority in our initial service delivery. While Emotional and Spiritual Care has always been an understood in our disaster delivery service, the Army is now deploying officers (ministers) and carefully chosen, trained volunteers as Emotional and Spiritual Care Specialists. These ESC personnel are tasked with the care of not only affected people, but also other disaster responders. The Salvation Army sent one of the largest continents of ESC personnel to this disaster response in my memory.

Because of the increased response in this trained personnel, we were able to deploy ESC teams with trucks and other vehicles to affected areas as “spiritual care ground forces.” These ground force teams were able to get into some areas that our mobile feeding units could not get into and offer assistance. Some of the areas were so damaged and difficult to traverse that the ESC teams were forced to walk along roads dragging coolers of cold drinks and snacks. Far from just offering physical comfort, these teams were bringing the love of God to places that had seen such sorrow!

I had a chance to work with these teams for my first two days here in Oklahoma. These dedicated officers and volunteers took to their work like trained soldiers. Every morning, they would go to the distribution warehouse and load up with supplies. From drinks to snacks to candy to small toys, they were loading up “ammunition of love” to be shared with everyone they came in contact with! They prayed as they walked! They prayed as they talked! They spoke hope to people who did not have any hope! The days were long! Some of the teams had to seek shelter during inclement weather. There were sunburns and tired feet, exhaustion and emotional wear. But, these faithful soldiers trudged on and brought hope, peace, and love to the people of this land.

Pray for the people of Oklahoma! Pray for those who are helping! Pray for those who will be staying and helping in the future!

God Bless the people of Oklahoma!
God Bless the work of the responders!
And, God Bless The Salvation Army!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 9-Meeting Needs at the Point of Need

Today, I met a wonderful lady at the Little Axe Multi-Agency Resource Center. I have been doing emergency disaster assistance casework. I asked her if I could share her story.

May 19th was a special, but ordinary day for her family. Her husband was in Shawnee with the grandmother getting ready for the birthday party for their 16-year old. While they were away from their home, disaster struck! A friend called her from a storm cellar and told her that everything was gone!

Path of May 19 & 20 2013 Oklahoma Tornadoes

Her husband tried for two days to get back to the site of their home but was not allowed. When they finally got to the site, they saw that everything was gone. It was a total loss!

Newalla, OK is a small rural community in east Oklahoma County, south of Oklahoma City and near Norman. Sandy has lived on that property for 14 years. Each and every one of the five children was born and raised in that home. She has lived in this area since the 4th grade. This was her home!

She said that when she returned she was horrified. Everything that she knew and everything that she owned was takes away but the storm! They were worried for their pets. The Bibb family has four dogs, a cat, and a bird. Fortunately, the dogs and cat have been located, but all they could find of the bird was the smashed cage.

What makes this family’s situation even worse is that the danger is not over!Right now, they are not in danger of tornadoes taking whatever is left. Their fear right now is the looters that have been going over their property taking whatever they pleased. A local church brought them some tents, cots and toys for their children. When they returned, the only thing left were a few toys!

The family is trying to make the best of it and staying out on their property. Their three-year old has not returned to the site because their is still broken glass and dangerous debris.

“I don’t have a home. Tornado came and ‘blewed’ it away!” – three-year old disaster survivor

The family has been working on clearing their property. They have been hesitant about allowing groups to help because they are unsure of their intentions.

The three-year old is still maintaining a good outlook on the situation. If you ask her about going home, she will look at you and say with a smile, “I don’t have a home. Tornado came and ‘blewed’ it away!”

When I asked this lady if I could share her story, she said that I could, but she began to tear up a little!I asked her what she was feeling and she said this:

“I just want a home for my family! A nice place for them to live!”

This family has been working with FEMA to make that happen. The Salvation Army was able to offer her financial assistance to help her family with their emergency needs. She was extremely grateful and thanked me over and over.

Although she declined to have her picture, I wish I could show you the look of resilience in her face. After meeting her, I am beginning to understand what #OklahomaStrong really means!

We had prayer together before she left for which she was very grateful for! She said that was one of the first times that someone offered to pray with her during this experience. She said that prayer was the best thing! I agree!

#PrayForOklahoma

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 8-Big Storms, Small Towns #PrayForOklahoma

It has been all over the media! Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms all over the central Oklahoma area have been causing some major damage and have even claimed lives! The EF-5 tornado that came through Newcastle and Moore was highly destructive. The recent tornado through El Reno has now been labeled as an EF-5 as well being called the widest tornado on the planet.While the tornado from Moore has captured the hearts of the people due to the increased media attention, there were smaller towns that were deeply affected by these natural disasters.

Having been sent out by the Incident Command, I have spent the last five days in places like Shawnee (Pottawatomie County), Carney (Lincoln County), and Little Axe (Cleveland County). While the May 19th storm may not have been as big as the May 20 or 31, the impact on these smaller communities is still great! Little Axe is more than 25 minutes outside of Norman. The MARC (multi-agency resource center) is located at the local elementary school. Relief workers and responders are having to drive in from Oklahoma City and Norman to provide relief and assistance.

With more significant weather coming into this area this week, these people are desperately in need of relief and safety!

Prayer for the people of Oklahoma, all of the the people of Oklahoma!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 7-Serving with Old Friends

The Salvation Army; Shawnee, OK

Although I am sorry about the circumstances, this disaster helped reunite me with some old friends that I have not seen in a while. Lieutenants Philip and Elaine Canning are the corps officer (ministers) for The Salvation Army in Shawnee, OK. I have known Philip and Elaine before they were Philip and Elaine. We worked on camp staff together when we were kids.

They are a vibrant, young couple who truly loves their communities. Philip and Elaine are responsible for Pottawatomie, Seminole, and Lincoln counties in Oklahoma. Parts of their counties were affected by the tornadoes on May 19, 2013. The Cannings have been working around the clock since the tornadoes to serve OTHERS in their community. I was honored to have the opportunity to give them some relief for a few days.

Please remember all of the people affected by these natural disasters!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 5-New Recruits Joining the Army of Hope

In every fight or conflict, troops get weary and tired. Fatigue sets in and makes continuing more and more difficult. After someone has been serving for a time, it is time to bring in some new vitality and spirit. You need a fresh infusion of service and love.

Let me introduce you to Pam Wedel. Pam served today at the MARC (Multi-Agency Resource Center) in Shawnee, OK. Pam is relatively new in her volunteering with The Salvation Army. She was looking for an opportunity to help out! She says that this is a good time in her life to extend her circle of people that she serves and helps. A woman of faith, Pam has interviewed and prayed with many inidividuals and families at the Shawnee MARC. She is always there with a winning smile and a williing spirit! She makes everyone feel welcome as they come to the table to talk to The Salvation Army.

And, you may wonder what her reward is…let’s ask Pam herself…

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 4-Praise You in the Storm

One of the unfortunate things about disaster services is that there are times that while serving in a disaster another one can follow right behind it. And, although they are still assessing the situation from today's storms, we had one challenging night weather-wise here in Oklahoma!

Picture from Oklahoma skies on May 31, 2013

 

And I'll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I've cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

Casting Crowns shares this song with us. Even while we go through some of the most difficult time of our lives, we can still praise God for His faithfulness.

2 Samuel 22:3 NIV says, “my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me.”

We truly have a God who wants to protect us from all of the “storms” of life! And, even when a storm comes along, He is still there with us!

#PrayForOklahoma

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 3-Two Generations of Service

I have served on, including this one, eleven deployments for disaster services. I have served in various capacities from operating canteens to working in the warehouse to being the Incident Commander. On all of those deployments, I never did something that I have now done. In Oklahoma, I have had the opportunity to serve with my mother, Major Susan McClure (Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Divisional Headquarters). My mother and I have both been assigned to this deployment as a Emotional and Spiritual Care Specialists. My mother has a long history of disaster experience stretching back over thirty years. Some of the skills and abilities that I have now came from somewhere!

Photo credit: Major Connie Long
Mom and Me at Plaza Towers Elementary
Photo credit: Major Connie Long

On Tuesday, we were both assigned to the same team that drove through the neighborhoods surrounding Plaza Towers Elementary ministering to the families and relief workers. I watched my mother pray with people and serve people and love people. Proverbs 22:6 KJV says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I grew up watching my mother serve OTHERS! She taught me the values of service to others. She taught me the importance of meeting people right where they are.

In our mad scramble to constantly improve ourselves, it’s quite possible that we are not taking time to learn from those around us who have been there and done it all before! I know where some of who I am came from! It came from my mother!

I am proud of who my mother is and what she does, but more importantly, I am proud of who my mother lives and serves for!

Soli Deo Gloria!