May 30, 2013

Giving Back: West, Texas

***Update-- I started the following post a few weeks ago before the tragedy that occurred just north of us in Norman, OK.   I finished it today with both towns still heavy in my heart.  

    About 2 weeks ago, a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas caught fire and exploded. The quaint little town of merely 2,800 residents lost 14 of their own. Beyond the lives lost, homes, schools, churches, and business were destroyed. People were displaced out of their homes, but also the water supply of most of the town was shut off due to contamination.
    West is about 60 miles south of Dallas, and roughly 85 miles south of where we live in Frisco. It's known to many of us post college folks as the 'Czech Town'. Anyone making a road trip on southbound I35 towards Austin or to float the river, has stopped in West to enjoy a tasty treat from one of many of it's Czech bakeries. Michael also happens to have family in the town. So we decided to rally up some of our blessings and make a trip down to visit and bless others.
     In just a couple of days, from our neighbors and preschool, we collected this entire truckload of supplies as well as a few hundred dollars in gift cards! The good news is that the residents didn't need much food. Food and meals were coming in from other sources. The bad news is that every single thing was contaminated so people needed cleaning supplies that were water-free.

We woke up early on a Saturday morning and loaded up all 3 Caney boys in the back seat and headed South with our loot.  Earlier during the week I had connected with Michael's aunt & cousin who were working in the heart of the relief. They told me that the main support location- the fairgrounds in West, had run out of room to store donated supplies and that only money was needed. The news was saying the same thing. I already had a wagon load full of stuff that had come in, I couldn't not go, right? So I prayed about it and did a little research. I thought, surely, in a town like that, and here in the Bible belt, one of the first places people will go for help will be churches. So I just typed 'church West, Tx' into Maps on my phone. Number one on the list was the First Baptist Church of West, Texas. I called and spoke with a man who worked there and told him I had a truck of supplies and no where to take them. He told me, "Yes, we can take them! We are feeding people but also giving them a place to shower." 

We pulled into West just after lunch time. There was a fireman's funeral going on at that exact time. It didn't take long to find the FBC. When we arrived, this is what we saw. I had no idea the southern baptist convention had their own disaster relief team! How amazing is that!! They had sent people from all over Texas to help out. People were serving meals, cleaning, unloading supplies and every single person had so much joy in their service. They were genuinely happy to be there. God loves it when we serve faithfully and without heaviness in our hearts. 

And this is the one that really got me......

When I saw this sign, I just was so humbled. From this suburban mom living a posh life, God really gave me a good sense of reality that day and just how blessed I am. I could not imagine having to leave my house to shower or wash clothes. I can't fathom dragging all 3 Caney boys across town just to get cleaned up. And this is what these precious people were doing. 

There were trucks of food as well as outdoor kitchens where volunteers were cooking the food. 

The boys helped unload the truck!

After unloading our supplies and chatting with some volunteers, we headed outside of town to visit family. We drove under this. 

So sobering. There was a funeral procession coming right after us towards the cemetary to bury one of the fallen firemen. As we drove on down the road, there were paulbearers on horses lined up along the road and cemetery gate. I just kept thinking, "What if that had been MY husband?" How could I even fathom such a loss?

With all the devastation that our country has faced over the past few weeks- first the Boston marathon bombing, then the West explosion, and now just last week-- the tornado in Moore, OK, so many of us are looking for awswers. Why, God, why? The hardest question to answer as a believer is "Why would God allow such tragedy to happen. What kind of God allows children and firemen to die and allows murderers and rapists and such to live and carry on?" 

Friends, I wish I knew. I wish I had an answer. In the West explosion, while as terrible as it was, actually going in to the town, I have never seen so much service and collaboration. God provided meals, water, showers, and laundry. God provided Himself. People were crying out, praying for help and He arrived. It may not be in the exact package they asked for, but he arrived.  God likes to show off in that way! He doesn't always work things out the way we ask, he works it out His way. We will never truly know the exact reason for every terrible things that has happened to us until we meet our Father one day. Only He knows. He allows us poverty, destruction, terror, and tragedy. He doesn't create those trenches. He is all powerful. But He only makes good. However, he doesn't always keep us from falling in those deep trenches. It is when we are at the bottom of them, and on our knees, that we realize only He can get us out. And that is His grand plan folks. It's all for His glory. How many people down in West and now up in Moore are praising God for what they still have? How many people are learning to lean on a Savior because they have seen the handy work of his angels in the form of kindnmess and provision? We will never know. But He knows, friends. He knows it all. 

And so I leave you with this. The FBC had it posted on their marquee. Fabulous news. There is nothing bigger than Him.