Friday, May 7, 2010

My arms aren't big enough

Oh how I wish I could give a collective hug to my church family and to the citizens of Nashville! This has been an incredible week in many ways and one that will not be quickly forgotten. I already wrote about some of my thoughts from the May Day Flood of 2010, but I have witnessed so much good will and compassion this week that I have been overwhelmed emotionally.

First of all, I cannot say enough about the awesome people of Grace Community Church. Beginning last Saturday when it became evident that several church members were in danger of getting flooded, concerned friends started posting on Facebook trying to find out information about each other. Throughout the weekend, when hardly anyone could get out to go help, prayers were being lifted up and people were already beginning to agonize for their friends. We even saw news coverage of one of the couples from our church being assisted off a boat after being rescued from the second story of their home, along with their seven grandchildren. (Actually, I missed seeing it on TV because I had changed the channel, but I heard about it.) Families who lived near each other offered dry homes to those who were having to evacuate.

Then on Monday morning, the sun came out and God started drying up all the land. People were able to get out of their subdivisions and assess the damage. We started getting news of those who had sustained damage from the flood, some with water up to the ceiling of their ground floor. People began looking for ways to help. They didn't wait to ask who was going to send them somewhere, they just went.

Once the church staff all arrived at the office on Tuesday morning, we got together to figure out what church members had been most affected and how we could mobilize volunteers. God worked in awesome ways, bringing people together in the neighborhoods that were hard hit, and bringing people to the church office to volunteer and help with the logistics of getting the work done. One couple had been unable to leave their home all weekend, but their home had not sustained damage. We had had no contact with them because their power and phone lines were out, so when they walked into the church office on Tuesday morning, we hugged their necks and then they stepped in to help.

All week long, the days started with us getting reports from the families in need and then mobilizing people to go help them with whatever needed to be done that day: moving furniture, tearing out drywall and carpet, washing muddy clothes and dishes, bringing meals for the volunteers and the families. It was a team effort. Not one person did it by himself.

The thing is, this kind of thing was happening all over Nashville. It wasn't just an effort of Grace Community Church, it was a multitude of volunteers from all walks of life, many different organizations, simply doing what Nashvillians love to do: volunteer and help those in need. Country music stars got in on the action and staged a telethon to raise money for flood victims. The last I heard 1.7 million dollars was raised during the telecast, with more money coming in, I'm sure.

The initial news of the flooding in Tennessee got overlooked by national media, due to seemingly larger issues (NYC bomb threat, Gulf oil spill). Granted, those things were newsworthy, but what finally got the attention of the national news media was not the horrible flooding itself, but the incredible outpouring of volunteers willing to step in and help their fellow neighbor. Sportsblogger Patten Fuqua stepped away from the normal theme of his hockey website to give his thoughts on the subject, coining the phrase, "We are Nashville." CNN's Anderson Cooper also came to town to interview people affected by the flooding. One of the things I heard him say in one interview was that he although he and the other national news media had overlooked the story at first, the real story was what happened afterward. And I think it's better to remembered for how we have stepped up to meet the challenges instead of having the initial story reported and then forgotten.

The clean-up is far from over and Nashville and the mid-state will have far-reaching effects of the flood, but I have never been more proud to call Nashville "home" and have nothing but feelings of love and gratitude to the people here who have given time, money, and muscle power to show love in action this week.

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