The March 2 tornadoes were part of a system that did damage in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. We
ended up in Harrison, Tennessee, where more than 300 homes were affected, and 93 were completely
destroyed. The tornadoes struck about noon on Friday, and lasted all of a minute and a half. There were
no deaths, which was a wonderful miracle considering how many people were home at the time and the
amount of damage the twister did.
Harrison is not far from Apison, Tennessee, and both towns are in Harrison County. This area has seen
more tornadoes in the past ten months than in the last sixty years. In fact, clean-up efforts are still going
on from the storms that hit there last April. Everyone affected by them refers to them simply as “April
27” and everyone local knows exactly what that means, much like 9/11. We arrived on Monday and plugged
in with our friends from Open House (JoJo and Doug and the rest of the Apison group). The Salvation
Army, Hamilton County EOC, and several other groups were headquartered at Camp Joy (where Curt
served as a camp counselor when he was 18!). I worked as a volunteer coordinator and Curt and Brian
headed up the hill with the truck and trailer. It was interesting being “in the office” rather than out in the
field. I did miss getting to talk to homeowners, although many came to me to fill out work orders and were
more than willing to share their stories.
Several people likened the sound of the tornado to that of a freight train. A few said it was more like jet
engines when the plane is landing or taking off. Almost everyone said that the sight of the damage was
shocking. “You see it on TV” many people said, “but it is nothing like seeing it for real.
Carl took cover on the floor in his bathroom. The tornado swept his entire house away-not one fixture was
left in the bathroom or any other part of the house. His neighbor saw the whole thing and was sure there
was no way Carl survived, but somehow, there he was on the floor, unharmed.
Barbara lost her husband in January. She took cover in the garage and then went out to see the damage
after everything got quiet. As she walked out, the second story collapsed over her hiding place. Also
destroyed was her husband’s room. Even though she is heartbroken at losing her partner of 47 years, she
sees it as a blessing that the Lord took him when He did, because he would not have been physically able to
get to the garage, nor would she have been able to help him, “and losing him in that storm, I couldn’t handle
that.” She cried with us. Staying busy with clean up is helping her, but keep her in your prayers so that
things don’t overwhelm her as she tries to stay strong.
Annette lost her husband last year. He drowned in the lake behind their house as a result of some kind of
complication due to his diabetes. This year, her house was twisted off of its foundation by the tornado.
“Why couldn’t my husband be here to help me?” she wondered. She and her son, Ross we visibly touched by
the work that Curt did in her yard. They received a strange surprise when he cruised through their yard on
the bobcat. Ross saw it first and called his mom over. “You have to see the man on the bobcat!” he said.
She looked and clutched her heart in disbelief. To confirm that she wasn’t seeing things, she called her
neighbor over. Without any prompting, the neighbor said, “If I didn’t know better, I would say that right
there is your husband!!” Annette thought it was a funny coincidence that the Lord would send someone who
looked like her husband-who had always been there to take care of things around the house for her- to
come and help at this difficult time.
Several volunteers came out to help. Many came from Apison, saying it was their turn to give back. During
the first week, James and Joel from the Bowery joined our team. Both said they were shocked by the
damage they saw. After they left, Brian’s wife (Christine) and kids came up and helped out. Eight-year-old
Anna seemed especially interested in helping. There were probably more than one thousand helpers over
the three weeks. However, as the days slip further and further away from the occurrence of the tornado,
the number of volunteers also dwindles. During the last week we were there, only four volunteers came in.
Most of the work was being done by Open House, RMCC, and our new friends, Michelle and Jeff. Both of
them are handy with chainsaws and were a big blessing to everyone. Even though our group was small, a
great amount of work was accomplished (thanks largely to a bobcat rental that was donated for the time
we were there). I am actually always amazed myself at how much our little group can finish. A homeowner
who came to fill out a work order seemed impressed too. Not realizing I was part of RMCC, he told me,
“and that group from Calvary Chapel Sarasota-it is amazing how much work that little group is getting
Thank you to everyone who prayed for the influx of volunteers we were expecting on that first Saturday.
We were concerned about traffic and other things, and the day ended up going very smoothly. Although
there was a bit of congestion, the traffic moved steadily, and we were able to get people to and from the
camp and the work sites with little trouble. We sent out about 250 people from Camp Joy and figure that
there were up to 700 volunteers all told. In addition, not one person was injured! Most people seemed to
think that the whole effort (not just that day) was well-organized. Unfortunately, some of that came from
the experience gained on April 27, but we also know that it was prayer as well.
As usual, we met some really wonderful people and hated to say goodbye. We will miss Glenda and Denise
and Zach and Jeff and Michelle, among others! This time, we were also seeing old friends from our last
trip, like JoJo and Pastor Todd. (We stayed at Todd’s church for a few days and then moved to Camp Joy,
which was much closer.) We were so blessed by Doug and his wife, Sam. They loaned us a car, which was a
great convenience, especially when Brian’s van broke down. Pray for them as they seek their role in
disaster relief. We returned to CC Cleveland for church, and we felt extra welcome when Clark
remembered our names! We also attended a few services at CC Chattanooga, and were encouraged in the
Word in both places. We visited Arthur in Apison one evening. His 104-year-old house had been completely
destroyed April 27. He didn’t even have a picture of the old house, “That’s in the wind” he said. But his new
house was nice and cozy and had a “Welcome Home” sign on the porch. It was neat to see the completed
home and know we were a little part of it. Brian and Curt went around and pointed out the different things
they had done. When the house was in the planning stages, Arthur picked this particular two-story plan in
hopes that his daughter and grandchild would come and live with him, but so far, this has not happened.
We had to leave because Curt had to come back for work. In 21 days, our team worked on over 60 houses,
logged more than 1000 hours, used 500 gallons of fuel, put over 200 hours on the bobcat, studied 2 books
of the Bible during our team devotional time, and made about 10 trips to Bruster’s ice cream, (if you know
Curt you’ll know how important that is!).