Harrisburg, IL Tornado Update

Since the relief efforts in Harrisburg will be an ongoing project for some time to come, here is a great article that tells some of the personal stories. We are happy and privileged to be a part of what God is doing in the recovery efforts……

BANG! BANG! BANG!, went the hammer as the young man in the plaid shirt, sleeves rolled up, pounded nails into the only structure partially steady on his small corner lot. The porch’s roof he rammed nails into was no longer attached to the modest trailer home he had purchased for his grandfather. This humble trailer was to be home now for his grieving grandfather since the recent passing of his grandmother. His grandfather slumped in an old battered chair salvaged from the remains of the Harrisburg tornado. Only a short time ago, this small trailer, filled with his grandmother’s few remaining belongings, was to be his grandfather’s new home. This grandson had provided the trailer that now was missing one end, exposing the toilet and part of a bedroom. The sides were bent and the frame buckled. A few days after the EF3 tornado, the heavy rains came. Everything had been lost. Still the young man continued putting each nail in with a thud as his grandfather gazed on.

A navy-blue vehicle slowly drove past their corner, but neither the grandfather nor the grandson seemed to notice, even though there was a sign on its side that read…US Emergency Chaplain’s Corps. Thud, thud, thud went the hammer.

Inside the vehicle, a woman turned to her husband and asked, “Why is he trying to fix that porch?” “It’s obvious that the trailer and the porch can’t be fixed!” Knowingly, her husband, Chaplain Steve Holden, turned to her and said, “Just look, and everything will talk to you.” As she turned back, getting a last glimpse of the determined young man, she knew. They drove on in silence as each wrecked home, busted and twisted, one after another slowly crept past their vehicle’s windows. They surveyed the damage as people’s agonizing eyes met theirs as the vehicle crawled forward. Some nodded as they passed. Others’ hollow, unfocused stares left the traveling couple wanting to impart hope. The woman reminisced about a time she heard her husband sharing how important hope was in order to have faith. “Yes,” she prayed, “these people need hope.” Noticing their vehicle had stopped, she began to focus on the conversation her husband was having with a man named Tom. Tom was explaining, “I’ve worked in previous disasters.” He went on to say, “Do you by chance know if any of these families who lost so much didn’t have insurance? I have eight to ten modular homes that I’d like to give.” Knowingly, Chaplain Steve and his wife, Starr’s eyes met. Chaplain Steve was describing the young man and his grandfather to Tom, and Starr could feel hope rising inside.
She breathed a silent prayer, “Oh God, let this happen for this young man and his grandfather.”

As Starr walked amidst the debris, she watched her husband and Tom drive away to visit the grandfather and his grandson. She didn’t mind giving Tom her seat since their vehicle was filled with supplies and her seat was the only space available. She thought about the different Fire Departments and EMS Stations they had delivered supplies to that morning. She remembered the different thoughts and concerns of the individuals they came into contact with. They had started their day by going to the courthouse for a command meeting, and finished by delivering twenty-four lunches to some of the EMS personnel that had responded to the tragic tornado. While deep in thought, she looked up to see their vehicle returning. She anxiously wondered if the small family was eligible for a new home. With one look at her husband’s face, she knew. Yes, the family did qualify, and there was no insurance. Thankfully, hope had been imparted to both grandfather and grandson!

Chaplain Steve and Starr continued their visits and deliveries. After meeting a paramedic at an EMS Station, they saw where he slept that fateful night before he responded to the call coming over his radio. Much to his amazement, the wall above his bed blew out where a window had unknowingly been paneled over.

They stopped at a church where the devastating tornado had demolished all but the front entry. The walls were five to seven bricks thick! Chaplain Steve and Starr spoke with several families as well as the pastor viewing the destruction. Many of the families had three to four generations present as they recalled the precious memories this sacred site held for them. Starr remembered one man’s question, “Will they rebuild?” He lamented what it would mean to his family, especially his parents, if they did not. Chaplain Steve, scanning the rubble, spotted a mangled prayer book.

Plucking it from the carnage, he remembered a particular family with an older couple in their eighties, several family members, and a middle-aged man carrying his granddaughter as they studied the carnage. Upon accepting the marred prayer book, the middle aged man attempted to brush some of the mud from the volume and flatten its pages. After a long silence, he quietly commented how much his elderly parents would cherish this treasure.

Chaplain Steve also noted the tornado’s path. “It whirled across this open field,” he explained. “Then it engulfed the church,” he continued as he pointed to where the lofty steeple had been. Positioning himself among the tons of broken bricks, Chaplain Steve compared the way Christ willingly laid down His life for mankind to the way the destruction of this church protected the residents and their homes that were adjacent to it. “Some may ask why God destroyed this church, but upon closer inspection, this church caused the tornado to ascend to a higher elevation, thus missing this neighborhood, and saving many lives.” This church could be compared to a type of Christ.

The afternoon wore on with many other encounters and opportunities for ministry.

The next day was Sunday. On their way to church, the couple wound their way through the streets lined with the contorted ruins from the terrible tornado; they slowed as they passed the corner lot where the young man previously strove to fix the demolished trailer for his grandfather. The trailer was smashed and flattened, a prelude to removal! They then knew it wouldn’t be long before the grandfather would enjoy his new modular home! Hope had indeed been restored.

By Starr Holden.

PS…….Please consider helping USECC with a financial gift by going to www.usecc.org and using the Paypal option or making checks to …..

PO 1183
Decatur IL 62525


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