Last week, I flew to Panama City, Florida to help my daughter, McKenna, clean up her house. They’ve been out of their home and living in a hotel since October 8th and are finally in a spot to be able to start the cleanup and restoration that needs to happen to the house.
To describe what I saw as overwhelming is almost too light of a word. I don’t know what I was expecting when we drove into the city. I can tell you, however, I was NOT expecting to see it look as if the hurricane hit just a few days before.
Mounds of debris, twisted metal, broken drywall, torn shingles, and tree limbs were piled high in front of houses and businesses waiting for the debris haulers to drive by. Dead wires from where they’d fixed the electrical lines laid in a heap at the bottom of the poles. Street after street met us with open roofs, tents and campers parked in the front yard, broken windows and moldy furniture. It’s as if it hasn’t been touched. And not for lack of trying. The city workers are racing as fast as they can to get the debris picked up and hauled off. They just don’t have enough people or trucks to get it done fast enough. The awe-inspiring numbers of volunteers that many other storms have had in the past seem to have skipped out on the panhandle.
Often, in disasters like this, we feel sorry for the people affected and pray for them. We pray for safety as the storm closes in or the fires get closer, and then we see what things we can donate or if they’ll be asking for volunteers for cleanup. But then what? If you’re like me, it’s always been ‘on to the next story.’ We go on with our lives until the next disaster strikes.
It isn’t this way this time for me. My child was affected. My grandchild and son-in-law were affected. It wasn’t just a faceless person who had their home damaged and their city torn to shreds. It was my family. It became real in a way I’d never known before.
One of the things I learned from this experience is that prayer and hands-on help isn’t something that goes away after a week is up or until you’ve forgotten. People need prayer continually. And you don’t need to be a well-spoken prayer warrior to pray for them. God knows your heart when you speak to Him…just pray. People still need physical help. Don’t wait until they ask. Offer it! I was talking to Emily about what volunteering might look like during this hurricane recovery. You can go through a volunteer organization. Or you can just go! In the case of Hurricane Michael, there are still hundreds of yards that just need debris picked up and put at the edge of the road for pickup.
We, and I DEFINITELY include me in this, need to stop looking at the places and people we don’t know as strangers and look at them more as our family in the body of Christ. We were all created by our magnificent Savior. Pouring out Christ’s love to others can only magnify His glory. Let’s be a ‘family’ to all!