Colby Gardner is on staff with the Church2Church Department at Adventures in Missions. Recently, he led an Adventures Relief trip to Moore, Oklahoma, where he saw the destruction caused by the massive tornado. There, he witnessed the power of community in a town torn apart by natural disaster.
Rolling down the interstate into Moore, Oklahoma, I thought to myself, “Oh, this isn’t bad at all.”
Then I got off the highway and made the decision to visit the residential areas.
As I rolled down Santa Fe Avenue and opened my eyes to the reality that hit this town on May 20, I couldn’t function any longer. I stopped my car, got out, and it hit me,
“There is nothing left, absolutely nothing. It looks like an atomic bomb hit here.”
I began to imagine what it would be like, and how they even made it out alive. Then, I began to ask questions. The other families in town have taken in the thousands of homeless families as their own. Talk about community – they have no choice.
I saw flags flying in the distance over fences lined with what seemed to be personal memorials.
I rounded the streets and finally showed up to Plaza Towers Elementary, where seven children died. After taking one look, I found myself wrecked. Tears covered my face and I couldn’t speak one word.
Upon seeing and reading the memorials lining the fence, it made me appreciate the power of community on an even greater scale.
As if that experience wasn’t enough, while leaving, I saw a man with one arm stretched high over the remains of the school, fervently praying. I almost ran off the road.
Later that day, I was invited to lunch with some friends who live in Moore. I heard stories of their escape to the mall storm shelter as the tornado jumped the mall on its way to devastate a whole city. They spoke of the tornados, ice storms, fires, and other natural occurrences that commonly hit Oklahoma as if they were a part of their very own culture.
I didn’t quite understand the reason of why they would stay in a place like that. On top of what I had seen that morning in conjunction with their stories, I began to get a better taste of what they had recently gone through – the pain of today.
Then we went to see a movie.
In the middle of “Man of Steel,” there was a great tornado scene.
I thought to myself, “This is too much. How are these people handling this?”
Loved ones were being swept away right in front of their families in this movie.
This was a picture of exactly what these people had just seen.
As I peered over the audience, I could see people wiping their eyes. A few people got up and left. Then I looked into the eyes of my friend sitting next to me, water filled his eyes as this current horror still haunts his reality –
Everything around him is gone.
Moore is still reeling from the tornado’s devastation, but there is hope. You can partner with Adventures as we continue to send teams to Oklahoma to help with the relief efforts. Click HERE for more information about our trips.