Tommy Harper has been through all stages of our United States Disaster Relief ministry, from clean up after his house was destroyed to receiving a brand new home. Now he pays it forward by volunteering with us to help others who felt just as lost as him.
You never wake up in the morning thinking, “Today is the day my life is going to be turned upside down. Today is the day I am going to lose everything I’ve worked for my entire life.”
On May 22, 2011, at 5:41 p.m., an EF-5 tornado hit Joplin, Missouri. My family and I took shelter inside a closet within the garage. When we came out, we didn’t realize all that had just happened. People were running, screaming, hollering for their kids, crying, and scared.
It looked like a bomb had hit our town.
I spent around the next 18 hours helping people, pulling them out of the rubble. When I’d get them out and see that they were OK, I’d go to the next house and do it again.
The next day, standing in what was once my front lawn looking at my pile of rubble that used to be my home, I didn’t know what my family and I were going to do. I felt helpless. I was scared. We had no insurance.
Later that day, my wife and I were standing in a part of the house that was still a little dry. She looked at me and said, “Tommy, what are we going to do?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But God is going to take care of us.”
When she left the room, I fell to my knees, looking up at the sky. I could see the raindrops falling down, hitting me in the face within what was left of my home. I just sat there crying.
“God, I’m done,” I said. “I’m broken. I’m lost. I don’t know what to do. Pease help me.”
Then these people started to show up from all over the U.S. They were here to help. There was this one group, and they were singing and clapping there hands and looked happy. Everybody stopped, and this one guy who was a little bit taller than rest looked at me with a big smile and said, “We’re here to help. Do you need help?”
They were with Samaritan’s Purse, and for the next two or more years, different volunteers with the group came to town to help my family and me from initial clean up of our property to eventually building us a house with our own storm shelter. We are so grateful.
That’s why I volunteered to go to Moore, Oklahoma. I was there on day three after the tornado in 2013 to help clean up and returned 13 months later so I could help with the rebuild of homes like the one my family had received.
Through the experience, I got to meet some wonderful people. I got to hear their stories and got to cry with them. I understand what they felt as a victim of a storm, as someone who felt helpless in an instant.
I’ll never forget what Samaritan’s Purse has done for my family, and I could never volunteer enough to repay this wonderful, wonderful life I have that God has given me. Since the tornado in Joplin destroyed my home, I have been baptized, and all I do is for God.
Who would have thought a tornado would give me this beautiful life? Thank you, Jesus.
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