Thursday, July 18, 2013


On June 24th, my team arrived in Oklahoma City in order to respond to the recent tornadoes, severe storms, and flooding. As many of you likely saw on the news, there were three singnificant tornados during the month of May that left Moore, Shawnee, and El Reno Oklahoma painfully aware of the power of nature. The devestation I saw was intense and hard to express. I walked down streets with piles of rubble on one end, half ripped-apart homes in the middle, and barely scathed houses just blocks away. The stories I heard were terrifying, tragic, and touching.

Exposure to these disasters has left me with a strong impression of the power of the human spirit. Humans survive. People in Joplin, Illinois, Oklahoma, and New York are picking up the pieces of their lives each day. They live with memories of the horror, but they refuse to be conquered by them. They come out of their homes to thank us; they shake our hands in convenience stores. They certainly mourn for what they lost, but they are all the more thankful for what they have. They teach me about grace and hope each day.

 This is a strip mall that the Moore tornado ripped through very close to the neighborhood where I worked.  
This deployment also featured some unique housing situations. One week we slept on cots in a homeless shelter's gymnasium. Then we were in a hotel for a couple of nights before moving to a fancy apartment building (A kitchen! My own bed!).
Finally, I was blessed by another (!) visit from Logan over the Fourth of July weekend. So thankful for some days off and a best friend to spend it with! For future reference, however, Oklahoma City isn't our first choice for vacation destination...

Because our teams in Oklahoma did such an efficient job, we finished the job before our deadline. This meant that I sorted donations for a few days before we were called up to another deployment. Because of that experience, i feel like i need to ask this of anyone who might be reading: when a disaster hits and you want to help, please don't send "stuff". The in-kind donations are all stored in a warehouse and require manpower, rent, utilities, etc. Oftentimes, the donations aren't exactly what is needed which leads to inefficiencies and challenges for FEMA and the non-profits on the ground. Instead, give monetary donations to the Red Cross or another reputable organization that is involved. Thanks!