Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Friday, May 2, 2014

Praising God, Even in the Storm!

Exactly three years before the April 27th tornado struck Vilonia this year, I wrote this post describing the inspirational way our community was dealing with another destructive tornado only two days prior. "Faith, Love, and Hope at Work in Vilonia" I titled that post.

Here we are, three years and a few days later and I'm writing another post-tornado blog, again describing an amazing community already making significant progress toward recovery, only five days after another, even more destructive twister.

This time, we lost twice as many residents in the tempest. This time, those deaths hit a lot closer to home. A former student was taken that night. Both parents of another former student were lost to the tornado. Several teachers at our high school lost everything they owned, twenty seven students at the high school (not counting kids at the other schools) have nothing left, and many, many more suffered significant losses in the storm. To say it was terrible does not even describe the devastation visited on the town of Vilonia on April 27th. This system was far worse than the one three years ago.

Most would expect people here to be paralyzed from shock, unable to cope. After all, many of the victims lost everything for the second time in only three years! I even spoke to one couple who was hit by both tornadoes and had trees blown into their home five years ago by strong, straight-line winds. But this is Vilonia, and that's not what I've seen.

It's amazing how quickly and strongly this little town is bouncing back. Already, most debris is piled and smoke is rising from flames consuming the rubble to ready this town for rebuilding. Residents, relatives, and many with absolutely no connection to Vilonia except through what they saw on the news leaped to action as soon as the sun rose the next morning and got to work. Packing and storing what was salvageable, piling what was wasn't. Relief centers quickly filled to overflowing with supplies. I swear I think we have enough bottled water in this town to float Noah's Ark. Supplies came from within Vilonia and a thousand other places. It seems everyone jumped in to help.

The amount of help is inspiring. It will restore your faith in humanity when you see it. Here, I have to mention how proud I am of the students I teach and the teachers with whom I work. We haven't been in school all week, but I've seen my students and my colleagues every single day, out there working, piling debris, digging for salvageable possessions, moving furniture, and doing anything and everything they can to get this town back on its feet. One student who lost everything posted on Facebook earlier today, "People Want To See Angels, Take A Walk Through Vilonia And Look At The Volunteers Helping Throughout The Town. There's Your Angels!" So many people helping, from here and elsewhere, from all different walks of life, have joined together to help people in need, and it's an awesome sight to behold.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. ~ James 1:12

But going back to that post about angels, I think that exemplifies what impresses me the most through every aspect of this tragedy...the victims themselves. I've talked to several, worked with several, and know several. Every one of those I've worked with, every one I know, and even the ones I've seen interviewed on television have continued to praise God even after losing everything! That is amazing!

These people have lost every material thing, yet still they praise God. It made me think of the many I see so often, even myself sometimes, getting upset and frustrated and even angry about things that seem so petty in comparison to the devastation I've seen these past few days.

So yes, the volunteer effort has been impressive. I'm so grateful that so many from here and from other places have come together to pick up the pieces. But without a doubt, the people who impress me the most in this situation are the victims, the victims who lost everything but haven't lost perspective. The victims who continue to Praise Him in This Storm!

I'm proud to work in such a wonderful community, filled with so many wonderful people. Praying for everyone affected by the tornado, and praying that God will continue to be glorified through it all!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

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