The Church Has Left the Building

( I am reaching back two years to share with you my most viewed blog, still so pertinent for today as a reminder for the need to reach beyond our church walls, to be the hands and feet of Jesus!)

     I found myself this week in Webster County with the sound of chain saws, cicadas, and birds all in close proximity.  I was standing where just one week ago a tornado had blasted through and left what looked like a war zone in its wake… a place where lives were changed forever.  A group from our church had traveled there to deliver school supplies for the students. Their high school had been decimated.  By the grace of God, school was not in session or there would have been countless teachers and students injured or killed.  The picture above is what is left of their gymnasium. I couldn’t even comprehend what I was seeing!
    Just across the county road, Cumberland Baptist Church was swarming with volunteers who were collecting, organizing, and delivering supplies to the tornado victims. The church steeple once situated on the roof was displaced on the ground. Portions of the roof were covered with blue tarp, but this church, this group of believers was undaunted. They were busy going about God’s business in their community, sharing His love as they met the present physical and emotional needs. Our church van was loaded with boxes of food to deliver on our way from the church to the interim school which had once been a junior college. One of their members, a Godly man by the name of Robert would be our guide. Having grown up in the area, he did not meet a stranger.

      Much to our surprise, at house after house the boxes of food were politely declined with instructions to give it those who had greater need for it. However, conversation and hugs were more than welcome! As we stood in yards and driveways of damaged homes littered with downed trees and debris, we listened to stories of this storm as well as life storms these people had experienced. As they had trusted God then, they were trusting Him now. Without doubt, they were confident in His love and provision . The first couple we met had moved to this area after Katrina took their home in New Orleans. The husband had been battling cancer, the contractor building their still uncompleted home had embezzled $30,000, and now the tornado. Despite repeated hardships, through tears of weariness but with resolve, they declared their faith in God to carry them through yet again. We had embarked hoping to encourage and uplift people on our way, however we found it was we who were being blessed. This was not at all how I had imagined the day would go! We had only begun with many more stops to make before arriving at the makeshift school.

     School had resumed in its new location only the day before. The tight knit community had worked tirelessly to clean the old Wood Junior College which had been closed for several years.  The recent buyer had given the building to the school for use as long as needed. God’s provision was obvious.  As the school counselor took me on a tour, I was again the one encouraged by their resiliency and resolve. The halls were decorated with signs made by the cheerleaders not rooting for the home team but rooting for God. One said, “I’ll praise You in this storm.”  A banner spread the width of the auditorium stage with the message of Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, for the Lord your God is with you always, wherever you go!”  (wherever you go was emphasized)
     These high school teenagers were embracing their faith in God despite the inconvenience and  tragic circumstances. Their calm, orderly procession from class to class was impressive. There was beautiful music coming from the second floor chapel of the old college. The teenagers were practicing for their end of the school year concert. Life goes on. I asked the counselor where graduation, just a few weeks away, would take place. As only God could have planned, the home seating in the football stadium stood untouched in the midst of the twisted steel and debris. The visitor side no longer existed. The graduation would be held there, in the home stands on the grounds of their old school. Wow!

     We unloaded the school supplies and headed back to the church with Robert. Our mission was complete, a mission beyond my expectations. Back in the church parking lot as we were saying our good-byes, I was noticing things my mind had been unable to process earlier in the day. I had been unable to see the positive things around me like the beautiful blue sky, birds singing loudly in trees undeterred by the pieces of metal blown into the limbs by the storm, and the whirring sound of cicadas as they emerged from the ground after a thirteen year stay. The world was still turning and life in some respects remained unchanged. I will take with me the wonderful example of how God’s children in this church were going above and beyond to meet any and every need in this situation. God is surely pleased. On the back of the shirts worn by our pastor and another man in our group were the words, “The church has left the building…Gone outreaching!” The Cumberland Baptist Church was a shining example of this. They are the example our group has taken back to Grenada with us. Should need arise, these Christian men and women have shown us what it would look like to spring into action. I felt a bit guilty as I returned to my status quo life at home.  For many of these people it will be a long time before they have that luxury. Please continue praying for all who were affected by the many tornadoes that ripped through the South last week. To God Be the Glory!


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