Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Oklahoma Mission 2013

By Larry Grant, who volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse in Moore, Oklahoma, after a tornado destroyed much of the town

On May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma. After hearing about the devastation, a group of seven men from my church felt called to go on a journey to help in this terrible tragedy through Samaritan’s Purse.

As God-fearing men, we all knew that God did not call us for just that work when we arrived but that the journey began when we are called. As we left in a group prayer, we each called out to God for His hand to be in this trip and for us to be led by His hands and feet and not our own.

Samaritan's Purse U.S. Disaster Relief Oklahoma

Each night, the volunteers shared their experiences from the day with the group. Larry’s group gathered together to talk about one of the homeowners they met.

As we ventured off, we began by singing praise and worship to our King. As I sat there in the driver’s seat listening to the conversations of the others, I knew this trip had more in store than we could ever imagine. The conversations were Godly and enthused by what God was doing in each man’s life.

Each time we stopped for fuel, at least one man in our group would share the Gospel with passersby. Some would allow us to pray, and others simply gave us a prayer request. But God lay it on our hearts not to wait. As soon as we were back on the road, we were lifting them up to our Father.

As we came into the state of Oklahoma, James was behind the wheel. He decided he couldn’t finish the drive into Moore, so he pulled into a desolate rest stop with no facilities, not much sign of movement, many road tractors with resting truckers, and one car with the hood raised and a confused young man standing beside it. Albert was immediately moved to see if he needed assistance.

Jeffery, a young Marine, had stopped to get some rest, but the battery had died while he was there resting. No one had any jumper cables. Just as we decided to go to the nearest town to buy some jumper cables, another young man pulled in to get some rest also. Bruce approached the young man, first asking for some jumper cables and then asking if he knew the Lord. He quickly agreed with a smile that he did. He also had the jumper cables we needed. God always provides.

Right there in this lonely rest area we were not only able to get Jeffery’s car going again, but we also led him back to a rededicated life with Jesus Christ. Still, our calling had just begun. As we arrived in Moore, our eyes could not believe what was before us.

Impacting Lives in Moore

Samaritan's Purse U.S. Disaster Relief Oklahoma

Chris Yarbrough, one of the men in Larry’s group, took time to pray for the homeowners he met.

The devastation was beyond what we had imagined. It looked like an atomic bomb had been dropped on Moore, Oklahoma. There were seven men in tears mourning for this community. God had a plan for each one of us, and that plan was to pray, encourage, and impact many lives in this community and also within the body of Christ.

We knew right then that we needed to be disciples of Jesus Christ and His hands and feet to this community. The first people we met on our arrival to Emmaus Baptist Church were Mark, Heather, and Presley Grace Davidson. God showed us His grace in abundance by having this family take us out to lunch in appreciation to coming to serve their community.

Our friendship with this family flourished and has not stopped since we left. We have now been blessed with new friends and family in Christ. Another divine appointment was serving a man named William Wallace. He is suffering with cancer and other health problems. Although he had shut himself in his home and would not allow people from his church and his community in for nearly three years, God opened that door for us.

We were able to speak into this lonely man’s heart and serve him in a tremendous way. William has now attended church and allowed the community to reach out to him. God has also provided William with a new bed and many new friends who deeply love the Lord.

Just like the prophet Isaiah, these men from my church said, “Here am I Lord, send me.” We never knew the impact our hearts for the Lord would have on so many people. We entered into the mission field with a heart and purpose for God. Each of us was a broken vessel, a little bit worn, and a little bit cracked, but we were still held together by the Grace and Love of Jesus Christ.

Samaritan's Purse U.S. Disaster Relief Oklahoma

Throughout Moore, homeowners showed their support for all those who came to help them clean up.

I don’t know how many lives God has affected through us, but I did come to the realization of how truly blessed each of us are. Our identity is not in our joy, and our identity is not in our suffering. Our identity is in Christ, whether we have joy or are suffering. We were able to Praise God in all things through service, song, fellowship, and prayer with the Lord’s joy in our hearts.

When there was a traffic jam we praised God for the extra time that we could pray together, the extra time we could fellowship, and that we weren’t in that accident and God was protecting us. When we were serving through working on a roof in the hot sun—and it was hot—we praised God.

He gave us the hands and strength to do the work, and we sang songs unto the Lord. It didn’t feel like labor. It was worship to God for giving us the ability and the opportunity to serve Him. We praised God for the many hands that made light work. It wasn’t about the situation that we were in but about how we looked at each situation and who was ultimately in control.

Our praise and worship was infectious to those around us, from the chaplains of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Teams and the other servants of Samaritan’s Purse to the homeowners and their neighbors. We all knew God had definitely called us to be in His service to this community as hearts and lives were continuously being changed, including our own.

We have a fire in our hearts, and it sparked a flame in others around us. I give all the Glory and Honor to the Awesome God we live for.

Samaritan's Purse U.S. Disaster Relief Oklahoma“I am not just sending you to rebuild houses,” God said. “I am sending you to rebuild lives, to draw those close to Me who have not heard or do not yet know Me personally. I am sending you to heal a community of broken hearts that have wandered away as the Israelites in the desert. Let me take these men and make their weaknesses My strength, take their doubts and cover them by My faith, and take their conformity and cover it by My courage. Let Me take these men of God and form them into a mighty vessel for My goodness. I will take these men and use them for My good to turn those who do not know Me back to where they should be. I will make them diligent to serve the Son of God.”

Realizing God’s Blessings

The night we stopped to see the memorial at Plaza Towers Elementary School was the night in which many men were broken when they realized how truly blessed we were to be able to go home to our families. Though there was emptiness in the air, we also felt the hand of God upon our lives as we circled together in tears to pray for the families so devastated by the strength of this tornado.

We gathered together, just bowing in reverence to our Lord, and allowed Him to speak into our silence. As we stood in silence for what seemed to be hours, we thanked Jesus for the families He has so blessed us with. With tear-filled eyes, we cried out to God for His grace and mercy to be upon these families that were torn apart by this storm.

We knew our mission was to be even stronger in the remaining days we had left in Moore and also here on earth. We helped numerous families throughout the week, but the movement of the Holy Spirit inspired each step. Our Samaritan’s Purse team leader, Dennis Robinson, was also a big inspiration to each of us. He’s a firm leader with a soft heart filled with the love of the Lord and the call to inspire those God had asked him to serve.

We must seek out God’s purpose and calling in each situation no matter how good or how bad it seems. We must give God all the praise and glory in it. Throughout this whole trip, we led three to salvation in Jesus Christ and three to rededicate their lives back to the Lord. We inspired the lives of many in the groups to give thanks to God no matter what the circumstances may be.

Samaritan's Purse U.S. Disaster Relief Oklahoma

During the week, Larry’s team, led by Dennis Robinson (left), was able to help several homeowners finish basic needs on their homes or properties.

God is in us. He reigns within our soul and spirit. Thank you, Lord, for making us into a willing vessel. We are God’s gold. Gold does not fear the fire but realizes that the fire will purify it, allowing God to see the reflection of His only Son within that gold. We will sing, praise, and shout about how good our God is from high on a mountain, echoing through the valleys.

Forever I have been changed through serving with these God fearing men of God. We love You, God, and thank You for what You have made us through this mission. God tells us to go and make disciples, not to sit on the pew on Sunday then wait until next week. We must go out and speak to the world. We must be world changers for Christ by loving God and loving others.

We seemed set apart from everyone else. Why? We were covered by the cleansing power of Jesus Christ and the grace and mercy of God the Father.