We are in Aransas Pass, TX helping folks affected by Hurricane Harvey. This is where the eye came through. There's a lot of damage still and many needs. We'll be helping with some rebuilds. We need YOU! Click here to learn about joining us in the field. If you can help with our expenses, click "Donate Now" at the top of the page. Please keep us and those affected in your prayers that all would be drawn to Jesus.
April 27th was a day that unfortunately broke many records in tornado history. Many lives were lost and many, many homes were damaged and/or destroyed. I was working on an entertainment system all day on the 28th and was able to watch and listen to many different storm stories, all of which broke my heart. I also realized that the media would only focus on big news items so I knew there were many communities that had been affected by the storm that I had no clue about.
I immediately began contacting different churches to see if we could be of any assistance. There was one glitch, I had committed to take 26 people to the Bowery in NYC for a week beginning the following weekend and I would be gone for 8 days. I knew there was a lot we could offer, but I also knew I needed to honor my commitment. I spoke with a couple of different people who were in the affected areas and it was determined that we would touch base when I returned from NYC and put together a relief effort the following week as I also had some work commitments to fulfill after NYC and before responding to the tornados.
After we returned from NYC the Lord led us to respond with Calvary Chapel Chattanooga. There was a small community outside of Chattanooga called Apison that had experienced extensive damage from the tornados. We quickly put out the word and began assembling our response team, while Darren from CC Chatt worked on setting us up with a place to stay.
The Bowery quickly responded with the ability to send five guys from NYC, Curtis, Sheldon, Miguel, Rafael Darrin. We were also joined by a husband and wife team, Jeff and Carol from CC Merritt Island, one guy from the local Barnabas House, Gerald, and another local guy who just wanted to go help out, Alex. We all headed out early Sunday morning and converged on Apison, TN.
We arrived in the late afternoon and hooked up with Darren; they fed us and got us out to Apison. They had arranged for us to hook up with Pastor Todd from Apison United Methodist Church who had plenty of work for us to do and a place for us to stay and eat. They had also arranged for us to get showers at the Little Debbie rec center which came complete with snack cakes on the way out!
We immediately were taken around the area to see the damage done and where we would be serving. Within a four mile radius of the church 20 people lost their lives and more property than we could count had been damaged including many homes that had been condemned. The first home we were going to work on had a snag and it was raining in the morning so we took some time going over some safety issues and spent an extra long time in the Word. The Lord led me to go through the book of Philippians so we dug right in. It turned out to be just what we needed during our time in TN. We did Philippians in the morning and the Proverb of the day in the evening until a few of the guys wanted to hear some teaching on relationships so we diverted to that during the evening for a few days. Since we were there for two weeks, we finished Philippians and we also went through Philemon and Jude.
At our first home a couple from California, Jim and Martha came up and asked if they could help clean up as they had some equipment that would make hauling stuff easier. I asked them how much they charged and they said they were volunteers so I said, let's get to work! After we finished for the day I asked if they would join us for dinner and then found out they had just arrived in town and didn't have a place to stay. We invited them to join our team and what a huge blessing that was! Jim is a very handy, resourceful, get it done kind of guy! He is very mechanical inclined and was a huge blessing to us in many areas. Of course he couldn't do anything without the support of Martha who worked very hard with us! We look forward to serving with them again as the Lord leads! They decided to stay on for a week and a half after we left.
Jeff and Carol took off Friday evening; Danny from New Mexico also joined us the first week from Tuesday until Saturday. The second week we were joined by Jason who searched us out on the web. ;He was visiting his parents in Tampa and headed home to Vermont and wanted to help for a few days on his way home. ;He stayed on an extra day after we left. Ken from Sarasota, an old friend, joined us the second week along with David, a local guy, another David who came in from a United Methodist Church in Indiana and our friends from CC Mechanicsville in Virginia, Jason, Amara and Jessie. The Bowery guys left early Thursday morning of the second week. Kenny and Jason stayed an extra day; David from Indiana was staying a few extra days, Alex and extra week and Jim and Martha for an extra two weeks. The rest of us left after we'd been there for two weeks.
There was a group of local volunteers who had set up a camp and was taking care of as many things as they could. We had rented a bobcat to make our work go quicker (without it we probably would've only gotten one or two jobs done instead of twelve). The local outreach started giving us some diesel for the bobcat and offered us some food that other local folks had prepared. Most of the locals were a little stand offish, not knowing us or what we were up to, which is typical in most of the areas that we respond to. After a couple of fill ups on fuel and a couple of meals there still seemed to be some tense feelings in the air when we were at the "tent city" after all we were the outsiders!
We were serving down the road working on three side by side properties. To move the trees on one of the properties we were using an easement driveway next to the property. On one of the trips a lady standing on the property next to the driveway said we could put all of our stuff on their burn pile if we wanted. I went ahead and we were pretty much finished up for the day and the trees in that area so we headed out. The next morning we came back and had to tear down a small storage building and decided to move it to the burn pile as well. While moving it I struck up a conversation with a guy on the property. It turned out it was his in laws property. Their mobile home had been destroyed in a fire last year and it was just replaced in October. Now the tornado had destroyed it and they didn't have any insurance. They were going to build a slab house on the property and only needed to cut down two huge trees that weren't damaged in the storm. We typically don't cut down anything that isn't damaged but decided that we could cut these down to help these folks out. It turns out that these folks were heavily involved with the locals at the tent city. After that we became everyone';s best friends!
The next property we worked on was next door to the tent city. Evidently we amazed everyone with the amount and quality of our work. The tent city asked us if we could start working on some of their projects. We cleared it with Pastor Todd and began serving with them on our last few homes. Keep in mind that homes in TN have huge lots with many huge trees. It was no small thing to go in and cut and clear the timber, but our team worked hard and we did and awesome job. Many people said they couldn't believe what all we accomplished and that it was a huge help in the recovery process. I have no idea how many tons of trees were cut and moved by our team, but it was huge, not to mention the debris that was taken down and moved.
Our trip was met with problems, as they all are, but God was faithful and as we relied and trusted in Him, He got us through the issues, taught us many things and we were able to bless many people, all in the name of Jesus!
Pastor Todd and his wife Liz from Apison United Methodist Church have spent a ton of time with the community through this time. We were blessed to attend one of their Sunday services where he taught "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood." At first glance this may sound like a pretty insensitive thing to say, but he was saying that amidst all of the storm issues that have come up, God was working in many ways. Neighbors were helping neighbors, strangers were helping strangers, language was cleaned up and through it all Jesus was being glorified through many! Their church was a major hub for relief victims, offering tangible goods to all those who needed it. They had also distributed tons of gift cards to folks who needed to purchase goods and didn't have the money. As needs arose that included physical work, they were doing their best to accommodate the affected people. They also have taken the time to minister to the people spiritually and as the remnant that will remain there after we've left, they will continue to do so into the future. They are a really small church but have accomplished a lot in the Lord's eyes during this time. Please keep them in your prayers. Todd has a list of the homeowners that we served and he will be following up with them in the coming months.
Since we responded to Apison there have been many other storms that have hit across the nation. I've been asked to go to Missouri and Arkansas and at this time have declined both. Recently some storms hit in the Massachusetts and I just got word that one of the Bowery staff is from the area that was hit and he will be taking a team there this weekend to help cut down trees. It is awesome to see what little we do turn into even bigger things as other's follow the Lord's leading.
We are always praying about responding to every disaster that we hear about and go as the Lord leads. We are praying about returning to the Apison area as what we did there was only a drop in the bucket for all the work that will need done.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we seek the Lord's direction for our lives and the ministry that He's entrusted us with. We desire to be out in the field more and see the Lord continually pushing us in that direction, all in His timing! Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support.
Click on the picture to view a few photos from our response, to view more click here. To view YouTube Videos click here