“My hero is the local church.” I wish I could remember what channel the TV was on. I wish I could recall who said it. A man was describing his experience following the terrible tornado that struck Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011. He had seen the devastation and he had seen the response to it. These were his words: “My hero is the local church.”
We used to live eastern Mississippi. Our house - next to the church building, next to the graveyard, across from the cow pasture and the lone oak for which the community was named - was an hour west of Tuscaloosa. We know the people who were hurt. We’ve driven the path of the tornado.
And we know the churches in the area. They are people with the heart of the compassionate Christ. They spent their energy, they gave their money, they wasted no time, they held nothing back, and they haven’t left yet.
Now, just short of a month after that Tuscaloosa twister, and immediately after the tornado that tore through Joplin, MO a twister strikes close to home in Oklahoma. Just north of our small town, the smaller town of Piedmont was hit by an EF-4 tornado. People died here, too, as a result of this wind. Many more lives were forever changed. We drove up on Tuesday night to see if we could join the search for a three year-old that was missing. We couldn’t believe the destruction we witnessed.
I’ve been preaching on a fill-in basis for a church in Piedmont for the past several months. I can write knowledgably about them. They are heroes. They are a local church, dealing faithfully with their own pain, and at the same time, bearing the burdens of their community. Their fellowship hall has become a center for supplies, clothes, and hugs. They are cleaning, praying, feeding (twice per day), and comforting their community. By the way, when I say feeding, I don’t mean they are opening their building so people can come eat (though anybody could). They are loading up vehicles and delivering the meals they have prepared to the people who are cleaning up their homes – or their slabs in many cases. And where they run short of supplies and volunteers, other local churches come to the rescue.
I appreciate the American Red Cross – you can tell because I carry a volunteer card in my wallet. Thank you America Red Cross for what you do. In cases like this, though, even the ARC parks their vehicles in the parking lot of FBC of Piedmont.
My hero is the local church.