I am certain of one thing -- these pictures don't begin to show the reality of what we have seen in Alabama! Even if you click on them to enlarge them! It's truly beyond description!
This week has been amazing -- blessings poured from the entire city and extended to the city to our northwest and the city to our south. The 18 foot long trailer was packed from front to back and as high as we could safely pack it. People were dropping off supplies until the very last minute.
I must thank John for coming and spending the entire day Monday and also Tuesday! He was my work horse and did an amazing job working inside the trailer sorting and stacking and sweating! And also thanks to Shelley for coming on Wednesday to allow me to get something to eat and bringing me some good cold water. There were quite a few who stopped by to lend a helping hand -- thanks to all of you!
We left at 6am sharp yesterday morning. It was nearly an 8 hour trip. We had our connection with Pastor Chad and James from IGO who was traveling up from Mobile to meet us and travel with us for the day.
We arrived in the city of Cullman which is not too far into Alabama. I didn't even realize they had been hit with a separate tornado that went right through their downtown and left them with destruction beyond words!
A warehouse had just been obtained and we were greeted by the local county jail inmates who unloaded our trailer and helped sort and organize everything coming into the area. That warehouse is awesome! Ms Alice is the manager and although she told me she has absolutely no experience she is doing a great job. The warehouse sends out all the donations to different distribution centers throughout the areas. Those centers can be churches, fire stations or the like. Each of those centers is able to reach those nearby and those they know and thus able to get donations into the areas where martial law is still in effect and no one else can get in. Ms Alice told me that more was going out the back door than coming in the front but things were coming in and she was extra thrilled when she saw all the laundry supplies we brought!
We did some video taping there and then took a tour of the area. Monty and I have seen alot of disasters but the reality of them still renders us speechless!
After touring the Cullman area we took a drive over an hour south into the areas between Birminghan and Tuscaloosa and saw even more damage. There was nothing spared in this one single tornado that was one mile wide and on the ground for a solid 80 miles! Nothing in its path survived! Not the homes, not the vehicles, not the trees, not the grass and not even the foundations. We saw solid steel beams twisted like drinking straws and vehicles turned into a mass of unrecognizable rubble.
As we were driving we saw an elderly lady just sitting outside her home, all alone, just sitting and staring. We stopped and asked if we could talk with her. Her name was Tommie Dee and she is 80 years old. She has lived in her home for over 56 years and both sons lived across the street. All 8 of the family gathered in her basement when the tornado warning sounded. She said she knew by the sound that nothing would survive -- and wondered if they would. After the noises quieted they went outside to the harsh reality that both of the sons homes were gone and hers damaged beyond repairs. To this day she still has not found either of her 2 freezers and her garage, along with its concrete foundation are gone -- nothing left but the boat. She talked to us, she smiled as she told us they were blessed because they were all alive. She told us how different agencies have come by numerous times each day to bring food and see if they need anything. They are still sifting through the rubble to find "things" -- parts and pieces of their lives! We prayed with her and every single one of us left with tears streaming down our cheeks! She was still smiling! SHE is what this entire trip was all about!
As the light was fading we realized we had no more time and really had no more ability to process what we were seeing. We bid Pastor Chad and James farewell and set out to find a place to stay for the night and to talk through what we had seen, experienced and felt. That took quite awhile.
We were blessed to have Mary come along with us. Mary is a young woman in our missions training school and headed to Ecuador to live there, to teach English at the university and to be a witness of Jesus love and saving grace to the people there. She needed this trip -- she needed to see this side of missions -- and she is, no doubt, changed forever!
I could continue writing for hours but I am also still processing and thinking and feeling . . . As I downloaded the pictures this evening it all came rushing back. How will God use us in this disaster? What will He call us to do next? We know we will be making another trip with supplies in a couple of weeks. We know Rob is there this weekend doing what he can to help clean things up and that he is also planning a week long trip for volunteers to join him sometime next month.
What we ALL do for now --- we get on our knees and pray for the people in the areas! So many areas and so many people! Therefore we better being praying so many prayers!
Until next time . . . God is good ---- all the time! Susan and Monty