What would it be like to live through a tornado? In checking on Joplin, Missouri today, I listened to several testimonies on the internet. As one man told his story, lightning sparked in the background, and he flinched. Fear still lingered.
A doctor in scrubs, standing in front of the destroyed hospital, wiped a tear and said, “Everybody in town is going to personally know someone who’s died in this tornado.”
But saddest of all was the man stopped by a reporter as he picked through the pile of boards that had been his home. The reporter asked, “Have you been able to find everyone?”
The man held up both hands and said, “I just need gloves. I can’t find gloves. How can I dig without gloves?”
Sunday’s storm produced the deadliest single tornado in US weather history, flattening 30% of a town with 50,000 people. One man who’d lived in Joplin all his life said he had to use his GPS to figure out where he was. It located him on Main Street, but there’d been no way to tell.
How does a person endure total devastation and come out on the other side?
First, citizens band together in ways that never would happen without catastrophe. Strangers become friends, and disparities evaporate. Those of different ages, incomes, race and rank join together with a single theme: how can I help you? Willing workers from nearby towns and distant cities pour in by the hundreds to do what needs doing, and by this, victims find the courage to go on.
One seasoned rescue worker described a common response of those returning to the splintered piles that used to be their homes. “They come looking for practical things, glasses, keys, personal papers, photos. It’s a healthy sign that they’re going to make it.”
Secondly, God arrives in special ways. Because he’s in the rescue business with an emphasis on souls, he’s fully prepared for the crowds that will turn to him in desperation. His Word describes what can and can’t be shaken, and though Joplin has been badly shaken, the unshaken still remains: unfailing love, joy in being alive, peace amidst chaos, hope for the future.
And God has a full supply of those, able to meet even the biggest demand. He has already begun rebuilding lives in Joplin. He got there ahead of the Red Cross, FEMA and the governor. And when they and others have gone, he will remain.
As I watched news reports, one interviewer played a cell phone video recorded in a convenience store. As the tornado arrived, screaming intensified, people stumbling over each other. The store went dark, and everyone crowded into a food storage locker. As the tornado’s noise increased, it drowned out the screaming except for one voice, a simple prayer: “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”
He was in the food locker, too, and after the terrifying two minutes were over, a shout went up: “Thank you Jesus!”
Not one person had been injured.
“All of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.” (Heb. 12:27)