September 9th, 2005

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Shelter from the Storm

Friday, September 9th, 2005

Jim, an 84 year old native, declared at the drug store this week that the wind that came through Aliceville, Alabama with Katrina was the strongest that he had ever experienced. Certainly, the fact that trees older than he were destroyed by the storm gives some credence to his declaration. However, back in 1938 a tornado ripped up Aliceville and left 13 people dead; so, one might question Jim’s observation.

In any case, most of the people in our west Alabama county lost electric power for several days. Some trees fell on houses damaging them. Other trees fell across the roads hindering travel for some time. As we learned about the devastation on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans, we thanked God that, even with our inconveniences, we were blessed that the damage was manageable, and no one among us was killed.

The early response here included members of the associational disaster team taking their chain saws to homes where the people needed their driveway cleared, or needed a tree removed from their roof. They and many others with generators went from home to home and hooked up to freezers and refrigerators so that the lost of food was minimal.

Terry who operates a meat processing plant and a restaurant near Gordo, Alabama, cooked up food that he feared might spoil and fed scores of neighbors in his community for several days. Those who had water still shared it with those who did not.

More than 100 persons who fled the coast found shelter among us. Many stayed with relatives. Others who had hunted in our forests came to stay in hunting lodges where they had lived during past deer and turkey seasons. And some moved into the Mom and Pop motels along US highway 82. In many instances churches found out about these people and fed and clothed them.

Several of the displaced families, particularly those with roots here, have declared that they plan to remain. Unoccupied houses have been offered to them. Furnishings which have been donated to the Baptist Center Thrift Store are being provided for them. Arrangements have been made for the displaced persons to meet with the Red Cross at the office of the Pickens Baptist Association. Checks will be provided to the families to help them meet immediate needs and get started again.

So, these grassroots Baptist folk, along with other Christians, are responding to the needs of neighbors and to the needs of “the strangers within our gates,” yet they are not through. They see the needs elsewhere, and they want to do more. Things are being gathered up and taken to shelters in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Columbus, Mississippi.

Still more to do. The association is connecting with the association of Baptist churches of Jackson County, Mississippi. That association has indicated what their needs–immediate, short-term, and long-term–seem to be. A transport trailer will be parked at our associational building to receive items which will be carried to Pascagoula soon. Later teams of craftsmen will travel there to help in the rebuilding process.

What I am describing here has been repeated time and time again across America. Our Christian values of love, mercy, and compassion have kicked in. At our most recent pastors’ prayer breakfast, we discussed how impressed we had been by the comments in the media concerning the responses of churches along the Gulf Coast to this disaster. They are providing shelter, feeding folk, offering health clinics, loving folk, meeting a variety of needs. Their networks have functioned much more effectively than those of the governments. Love seems to be a better motivator than anything agencies have devised.

We had also been impressed by the testimonies in the media of those who went through the storm. They thanked God for sparing their lives. They declared that God had something important for them to do in the days to come. We felt that they were doing something very important right then. They were testifying to their faith in God, even in the time of great loss. Like the very popular spiritual song declares, they said, “God will make a way.” He will. And we want to work with Him in doing this.