When disaster struck Moore Oklahoma in May of last year I sat in front of my television in shock with the rest of the country.
An EF5 tornado spiraled through Central Oklahoma cutting a 17 mile path of destruction. An entire elementary school was wiped out along with 1150 homes. The devastation is still being felt a year and a half later. The people in Moore have been picking up the pieces – both literally and figuratively – ever since.
When requests went out for diapers and formula I realized that families with special needs wouldn’t find supplies in the usual places. Teen and adult sized diapers went in a box along with extra g-tube supplies. I tracked down an Oklahoma City agency that could take the packages and help families.
Still, I reacted the same way I have whenever the world shakes with a major disaster. I beg my husband to let me go help.
Haiti’s earthquake, Indonesia’s tsunami and Hurricane Katrina have all yanked my heart in various direction as I’ve wanted desperately to help beyond writing a check.
After the Moore tornadoes I discovered that our own denomination sent licensed pastors as chaplains to help. I began looking into getting licensed specifically so I could go if the need should arise.
At the beginning of this year, Russ forwarded an email to me. It offered the opportunity to attend disaster relief training in Stanwood, Washington in May. The new guidelines allowed for responders who didn’t need a pastoral license so I signed us up!
Russ and I took the weekend, stayed with friends for two nights and spent two emotional days training to become disaster relief responders. It was eye opening for Russ and affirming for me.
Right before our big anniversary month our credentials came in the mail and yes, I’m still giddy about it! It’s official, we are both Foursquare Disaster Relief Chaplains!
There are just a few things to do to get ready.
Last week I passed one of four classes required to stay current for the next year. Bounding down the stairs with my certificate my daughter Rachel turns to Russ, “I know what Mom’s going to do. She’s going to go hold babies.”
It’s true, I’ll hold babies, muck out flooded homes, search through debris or pass out life-giving supplies. My job will be to aid during disasters, hopefully giving strength to those in crisis.
When I was part of a patient advocate team I was called on to sit with families in distress. Either a tragic accident or diagnosis had been delivered and I responded. Otherwise, hurting individuals were left to sift through information by themselves. All they needed was someone who cared. They didn’t need someone with all of the answers. They already had enough answers. Painful and devastating answers to questions one ever wants to face. What they needed was someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with them as they took whatever still made sense, clung to some hope and carried on.
My “go bags” are almost assembled. I just have a few more items to purchase so I can be ready if the call comes in. A thrift store run to purchase old jeans and a used backpack is on my agenda.
I’m taking extra sub jobs with the school district to fund my flight account because last minute flights can cost more than the budget deals I’m used to getting.
My health is already a priority but I’m keeping up with Crossfit and eating right to be strong enough to answer the call.
Most of all I’m praying.
I’m praying for strength, wisdom, courage and peace. I’m praying prayers of thankfulness to be so close to this dream planted so many years ago.
So now I’m asking, will you to pray along with me?
Pray with me for wisdom to choose which deployments I should sign up for and which are not meant for me. It’ll be hard to say no when there’s a need but I have to learn to do that.
Pray for provision of supplies and any other needed funds to go when the opportunities arise.
Pray I will have a clear head as I finish the last three classes I need to keep current for another year. It’s all so technical and I’m not.
Pray for my family to have all their needs covered. With a child who has special needs, Russ will need extra help. He is willing to hold the fort down here in order to support my ministry and calling which takes him to one more level of amazing.
One of my favorite worship songs, “Oceans” By Hillsong has become my anthem throughout this process. I sent it to Russ before he went to India. I do believe it helped to carry him through those hard, hot days.
This is my calling. It is my heartcry to lend a comforting hand and soothing voice. I was made for this and I’m so glad I can take you with me.