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!