By Nikki Roberti Miller, Samaritan’s Purse staff writer covering our response to tornadoes in Shawnee and Moore
You could hear a pin drop in the fellowship hall of Emmaus Baptist Church. After gathering for dinner, the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers participate in share time, relating “God moments” from the day. But this time, it wasn’t a volunteer sharing the story.
Clay Yockey, a homeowner invited to dinner after a Samaritan’s Purse team helped him clean up around his demolished house earlier that day, nervously took the mic.
A big mission of the group that worked on his house was to help him find an important family heirloom—a cane hand carved by his great-grandfather in 1932. The volunteer crew moved every branch off his property, clearing the debris while searching. But as the job was coming to an end, the cane hadn’t been found.
Clay sat on the lot of his house, everything torn down around him, and just cried. It wasn’t for the cane. He had really given up on it by that point and said he was at peace about not finding it. And he did feel fortunate that his family survived and he was able to find his dogs—even one that had been buried beneath the rubble for 20 hours following the terrible tornado that hit on May 20.
But the devastation around him was a lot to take in and he finally had to let out his emotions. His parents built the house. It was where he grew up. And now there wasn’t even a wall standing.
Volunteers came and sat with him, keeping him company as he tried to stifle his tears. One volunteer asked him more about the cane and if he had ever met his great-grandfather.
Clay replied that he hadn’t. He hadn’t really known his grandfather either, because he had died when Clay was 3. In fact, the only memory he had was a single picture from when he was 2, sitting in a chair next to his grandfather while wearing cowboy boots.
Moments after he had said those words, a volunteer came up with a handful of pictures and in the pile was the exact picture he described.
“I’ve never had any experience like that. Something so instant,” Clay was now saying during share time as he tried to choke back tears once again. “I heard it right then and God said ‘Here. You can have that memory back.’ And now I have it. I can’t explain how much it means to have something like this.”
Moved by his story, everyone stood to their feet and applauded.
“Words can’t express how much your help and support means to me and my family and the entire city of Moore,” Clay said. “What you’re doing and the lives you’ve touched and the things you’ve accomplished while here has touched so many people, and I can’t express how much that means to us.”