Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tragedy, Triumph, Chainsaws, and Chicken

Matthew 6Do Good to Please God
1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

Before I even begin this post, please allow me this caveat: I am in no way posting this to bring any glory to myself or any personal efforts. It is mainly to serve as a remembrance for myself and my family...mainly...this post is for me....that being said...

I needed to write about my last 36 hours. As you may or may nor know, a devastating tornado ripped through our area (about 4-6 miles from our home) a week ago. Yesterday, my family and I went into the heart of the devastation to drop off some supplies to the Relief Center. I then drove us through an area that was mangled by this force of nature.....devastating. Homes which stood for decades reduced to splinters. Unimaginable devastation. I have never even come close to seeing, with my own eyes, tragedy anywhere near this level.
Yesterday, I spoke with someone in the area who said that their biggest need was "men with chainsaws". Folks are still in a place out there where they are digging themselves out of an avalanche of trees which may or may not have crushed their homes to nothing. I knew that the extent of my aid didn't end with dry goods. I went home and prayed.
About 1:30pm this afternoon I called Chrissy and told her that "I need to go back there, I need to help....I need to go and cut wood". She agreed.
I was unsure as to how I was going to approach helping the folks out there. My initial thought was to just bring out my chainsaw and find a house that needed aid and start cutting. But The Lord kept putting in my head these words...."make contact"...."make contact". I wasn't even sure what that meant.
There's a church in Brimfield which is serving as the hub for relief efforts. I placed a call to them this afternoon. The woman who answered the phone was very exasperated and it was apparent that she was carrying on several "live" conversations beyond the phone which she just picked up. I told her that I was a guy with a saw and willing to help out. After she gave instructions to someone next to her, she quickly gave me an address...."Just go there" she said..."just go there and help".
I had no idea what scenario I was walking into. I got home from work, scarfed down an egg salad sandwich that Chrissy made me and headed off to Brimfield with my saw...to this address.
When you are on Rt 20, leaving Sturbridge towards Brimfield...if you have your windows rolled down, the first thing that you notice is the smell. It smells fantastic. Like wood, sawdust, pine sap. If you're a "wood guy" and routinely burn and build with wood....these smells are wonderfully seasonal and nostalgic. But when you get a glimpse as to why the town smells like that....it represents the aroma of widespread destruction. I'm not sure that smell will ever be the same for me.
Anyway, I got to the address I was given (and I'm going to make a long story short here)..It turns out it's a residence. A family who didn't lose their home but did lose half their roof and about 80 of the 100 or so trees that were on their land. It was unreal to see. This was a community that was basically built in to the woods. Every lot had at least 30-50 trees on it...and now they are ALL gone.
I met the homeowner and within 5 minutes I knew that he was a Christian. (I had been praying that The Lord would sent me to the home of a Christian to help out, score one for The Divine). We talked about The Lord and trials and tragedy and growth through struggles, then we got to work. I ended up cutting and hauling wood for about 3 hours with him and other volunteers who were at his property.
I have read of this level of devastation, but have never witnessed it with my own eyes. It is literally indescribable. One of the most amazing things is how this community has rallied to help one another. The church "relief center" has been stellar. While we were cutting, a car pulled into the house lot...they were from the church delivering meals. "How many?" they shouted....and they delivered an amazing hot meal for each of the workers....they were 2 guys in their 60's driving around in this busted station wagon with about 100 meals packed in the back. They were just delivering to anyone in need. We took one for each worker....the food was incredible. Roasted Chicken, meatballs, pasta, salad, bread and butter....Wright's Chicken Farm would have been jealous of this meal....perhaps it was the exhaustion and dehydration but...it was an amazing meal that I will never forget. In addition, they had an array of materials donated by stores and individuals from all over....work gloves, tarps, fasteners, bungee chords....this crappy station wagon was like it's own little charitable Wal-Mart....I mean...tarps, 60'x40' that cost like 80 bucks a piece, were donated free to anyone in need. It was amazingly surreal.

When I left at about 8 pm, there were many other volunteers who were leaving for the day as well, many putting in many more hours than I had. When I pulled up to the traffic light at the Brimfield Town Common, I was greeted by two amazing things....The "relief center" church with church bells being played and a sign over their front door that read "Food and Rest" and a boy scout troop, about 40 strong....all standing there with handmade signs on posterboard which said "Thank You" and "You Rock" and "Great Work"...and at every change of the light they were going nuts....jumping up and down like it was a freaking Beatles concert...cheering for the folks who had sacrificed their time to help dig out this community from wonton destruction.

At the beginning of this blog, I had it in my head that I wasn't going to post it to Facebook, which I normally do, as not to draw excess attention to these acts. My intention is to only glorify The Lord through any of this but, I feel now as though I want to post it if only to inspire others to head out to Central Mass, get in the mix, and share God's Love, Mercy, and Service with those who need it now more than ever. Just get out there, you WILL be used.


The devastation, as viewed from outer space:

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