Written by Rhonda Childs

    As I watched the headline news one morning, I learned that 16 people had lost their lives overnight from tornadoes. I turned the television off and prayed for everyone involved.

I thought about the times in the past that I had volunteered with various organizations throughout the years for disaster relief. I’d been to three different states to help victims who’d been affected by tornadoes.

My first experience in Tennessee had been the most trying by far. The number of lives lost and the devastation was horrific. It changed my life in many regards.

I worked with Franklin Grahams’ organization, Samaritan’s Purse. A group from my church responded to that call for help. We were briefed the night before we departed. As we went out to repair roofs, cut down trees, etc., we were told that the most important thing was to ‘listen to’ and ‘comfort’ people. However, nothing really prepared me for what I was about to see and feel.

As I spent long days going through what remained of someone’s home, I was ever mindful of how life could change in a mere matter of minutes. Realizing how the tornado hit so quickly, my thoughts raced that many of the victims never had a chance to tell friends and family that they loved them before they departed.

On one street alone there were fourteen people who’d lost their lives. As I looked around on this particular street, I saw only foundations where there used to be homes…and scattered about were baby shoes, toys, wedding pictures, and many personal items.

Time after time, I spoke with many people who knew and loved the Lord. These people who’d lost their homes, cars, churches, work places, and even family and friends, were thankful for their lives. They praised God that they’d just gotten to shelter in time, or that their beloved pet was found safe. They didn’t care about their material things, only their blessings!

At the end of our day, we’d go back to a church where we slept, ate, and took showers. I had a small room just off of the gym where I slept. Every day, I’d go to my little room and weep. It was too much for me to witness the loss of life and devastation. I prayed for many things, including strength for myself and others.

Amid all of the heartache and terrible circumstances, I saw the hand of God. There were so many stories of divine interventions and miraculous events…that I knew could only come from God.

We helped a family of a woman and her son who was in his early thirties. One end of Miss Fannie’s home was completely destroyed, and the other end was not.

Her son told me that he’d turned the garage into a living area for himself. He’d made it a huge room with a big screen TV, a wonderful sound system, and had lots of luxuries for himself and his friends. He said that he’d been living a lifestyle that he knew wasn’t pleasing to his mother Miss Fannie and the Lord…and that he’d stopped going to church and reading his Bible. It was his part of the home that had been completely destroyed, not the rest of the home. There was a wall in his room that held one lone picture, and that was a picture of Jesus. This was the only wall that was left in his area of the home, with the other walls having been destroyed by the storm.

Miss Fannie had placed the picture of Jesus on his wall. She prayed every day that Jesus would save her son. And he did!

Standing in the driveway with her son, he told me how relieved he was that the Lord had kept his mother safe in her part of their home that day…while he was at work. He commented to me “Jesus was trying to get my attention, and boy did He ever!”

Looking around while I listened to Miss Fannie’s son, the magnitude of the story was filling my heart and mind. He pointed to a car that was sitting in the driveway on the day of the tornado. The car was only about four feet from where his part of the house was completely gone. The car was intact with not a scratch on it!

I knew that Miss Fannie and her son’s lives were forever changed as well as mine.

~ On another trip that was in Virginia, I met a lady who was walking down a street with a bandaged leg and crutches. I noticed that she had a few cuts and bruises. I spoke to her and asked how she was doing? She told me enthusiastically, “Jesus saved my life over and over!” She pointed to a large foundation where her home had been, and there was literally nothing there, not a shred of anything! She proceeded to tell me her story on the day of the tornado.

She was home alone with her husband at work. Her husband called and told her that the tornado warning was at the level of ‘dire.’ She went to the basement of their newly built three story brick home. She said when the tornado hit, it lifted up her house and blew it away.

She told me that as she was thrown about, that she kept shouting, “Thank you Jesus for saving my life!” Over and over she rolled and was tossed here and there shouting, “Thank you Jesus for saving my life!” She finally came to a stop in her yard and looked up, only to see the sky, and her home was completely gone. She said that two days after the tornado hit, her husband saw their kitchen cabinets a mile away in some trees.

I asked if I could pray with her right then. She replied, “Yes, and could you please pray for my neighbors who don’t know Jesus?” She pointed to a man and a woman walking around in their back yard.

Their big beautiful brick home was untouched by the tornado, not even a crooked shutter. They were looking at two jet-skis and a boat in their yard that seemed to have a little damage. The woman told me that her neighbors were really upset about their jet-skis and boat being damaged, even though they had insurance. The woman seemed fond of them and told me that she’d been praying for them to have a relationship with Jesus.

Here was this lovely woman whose home has been utterly destroyed and she’d been hurt as well. She’d been saved by her faith and the grace of God. Yet, she wanted me to pray for her neighbors. What a beautiful act of love! She was thinking of others at this terrible time in her life.

We held hands in the street and prayed. As tears ran down my face, I prayed for this wonderful woman and her family. I prayed for her neighbors, who seemed lost in worldly things.

As I hugged her goodbye, I felt hopeful for all. This wonderful Christ-filled woman seemed determined to help her friends find the Lord. She had lost all her worldly things, but seemed to gain everything in the eyes of the Lord.

Each time that I came home from volunteering, my life felt fuller. I was blessed each and every time, feeling continually closer to the Lord! I encourage everyone to volunteer where and when they can. The volunteer will be the one to receive a blessing!

Rhonda Childs: OneLostSheepMinistry33@gmail.com

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