Last Sunday and Monday, the state that my family calls home was hit with a series of tornadoes. The tornado that hit Moore was an EF-5, the most powerful rating that the National Weather Service gives a tornado. These aren’t the first tornadoes to hit Oklahoma, and since they won’t be the last I want to take a few moments and reflect back and the look ahead. I have 10 thoughts I want to share with you. Today is the first part of a 3 part series. Tomorrow, I’ll share numbers 6-10 and Thursday I’ll wrap this series up.
But before I start, I was driving home from speaking at the Comanche-Cotton Baptist Association Pastor’s Luncheon on Monday, May 20. Traveling northeast on I-44, I saw the storm clouds forming and began listening to the radio for updates. In addition, my son Zach knew where I was and called to warn me of a tornado forming over Blanchard, a town located just ahead of me on I-44. I got an upclose look at the storm packing this tornado. As I approached the Canadian River bridge, there was debris on the highway and the DPS had just closed the bridge to traffic. What should have been a 90 minute trip home turned into a 4 1/2 hour journey. I took this pic of the bridge over the Canadian River, notice the missing bridge span on the left. It is laying across the interstate.
1. Contrary to what Pat Robertson may think (a year ago he said that tornadoes hit areas because residents there do not pray enough), the Moore tornado did not happen because we Oklahoman’s don’t pray as much as Jesus wants us to. We live in a fallen world. As a result, things are just messed up here. When you drink too much alcohol and get a ticket or cause a wreck, THAT is a circumstance of your own doing. Tornadoes are a weather occcurence. The Bible records that Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1). Job rose early in the morning and prayed daily for his children, just in case they were not following God; “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5). But God allowed calamity (including a mighty wind) to fall on Job in order that He (God) might get the glory. Furthermore, when someone asked a similar question to Jesus, He replied; “Do you suppose that those eighteen men on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 134-5). As my pastor @blake_gideon shared Sunday morning in his sermon, “Calamities are opportunities for the unsaved to see how bad hell will be and repent before they get there.”
2. Oklahomans are great, generous people. I went to First Baptist of Moore, Oklahoma on Tuesday and Wednesday following the disaster. I served as their Interim Education Minister in 2012. What I saw were people volunteering to help, to do whatever they needed to do. Neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers. What part of town you live in or the size of your retirement account didn’t matter. Oklahoman’s needed help and Oklahomans rose to the occasion. Now I know the rest of the nation has been helping as well. That is also the generosity of our great nation. But for immediate relief and rescue, Oklahomans rose to the occasion. I doubt anyone woke up that morning and thought, “Hmmm, you know I might need to pull a school kid out of some rubble today.” They could have responded differently and waited for FEMA or someone else to show up, but they didn’t. When the crisis was on, countless numbers of Oklahomans put on their boots and got after it.
3. “Getting it done!” Below is a video of Brian Williams and Harry Smith of NBC. “If you’re waiting for the government, you’re going to be in for an awful long wait. The Baptist Men, they’re going to get it done tomorrow!” I am proud to be a card-carrying member of Oklahoma Disaster Relief!
4. If you are a minister or staff member of a Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma, then by all means go through Disaster Relief (DR) training. Do not put it off any longer. I went through DR training a couple of years ago. Last week I’m glad that I did. I was able to drive through police barricades just by showing my DR badge and telling them where I was going. Wearing the yellow DR hat identified me and gave me instant credibility as I volunteered at FBC-Moore. Many people want to help when disaster strikes, especially when it is close and you have friends and family involved. Unless you have received some kind of DR training, about all you are going to be able to do is sort shoes. We live in a dangerous world and being trained in Disaster Relief is a necessary step in preparation. By the way, take some church members with you. I am taking some Ministers of Education, student ministers, and childhood leaders with me when I renew my certification this October.
Just an FYI, the next statewide BGCO Disaster Relief training is October 4 at First Southern Baptist Church, Del City.
Tomorrow – Part 2 of 3 (reflections 5-10)