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When we hear of a natural disaster close to home or even far away, our first instinct is to “do”. Clean out our closets, go thru shoe bins and raid the kitchen cabinets for unused appliances. We will have drop off locations and lemonade stands. Our hearts are breaking for those around us and we just have to do SOMETHING!
Our home was destroyed by a Tornado in 2009. We were out of town, by God’s grace, but most everything we owned was either gone or destroyed.
Our church at the time was so gracious and sprang into action to try to salvage what the could before we got home. But they didn’t know.
They didn’t know what was precious to me. {but they treated it like their own and saved pictures from getting rained on}
They didn’t know how to move a grand piano. {but that didn’t stop them from getting it out the house and on a trailer}
They didn’t know what was ours or the neighbors that had blown over.
We came home to a church members barn full of things our sweet people had salvaged for us. I’m so grateful for their help!
Surviving the aftermath of a Tornado is something you can’t understand unless you have been in it.
And as much as we were grateful for the extra hands and feet that day, it quickly became apparent that it was a job only John and I could do.
We had to sort thru tons of debris to make sure we didn’t miss anything.
We went thru hundreds of pictures just to find out that most weren’t ours.

Two very generous men in our church rented us a hotel room for a month no less than an hour after the tornado came thru. Because of their quick thinking, we were able to have a place to live and start the clean up process. Others weren’t as fortunate. The hotels filled up within hours.
Apartments were renting for almost double the normal price. {people who take advantage of storm victims are so tacky!}
Over the course of a few days, we were gifted boxes and bags of clothing, shoes and household items. Well meaning gifts and things that people needed to give us, but it wasn’t helpful. Not only did we not have a home to put them in, but now we had to sort thru all that stuff as well!

What we quickly learned is that :

1. Money is the most helpful. {we now had to make deposits, pay for clean up and restoration and rent storage facilities.}
2. Gift cards are a blessing. {we lived in a hotel for a month following the tornado, so we ate out. A lot. And it was a necessity. Restaurant cards, Target cards and Wal-Mart cards were a lifesaver!}
3. Cleaning supplies and bottled water are always needed. {trash bags, brooms, gloves, etc.}
4. The use of a truck and trailer is vital.
{we had to haul off so much stuff and without that, it would’ve been impossible}
5. Sometimes we just needed to do it alone. {wedding pictures, baby pictures, precious gifts and sentimental trinkets found damaged and sometimes never found brought about a flood of emotions. Stuff is just stuff, but having your stuff strewn about and trampled on is upsetting.}
6. Have another shower. {our church gave us essentially another wedding shower. New towels, pantry goods, appliances. They had us register for things we knew we would need and when we finally got settled in our new house, they threw it for us. Such a blessing!}

In wake of the recent deadly tornados that have hit close to home, please understand that they are grateful for anything and everything, but somethings are actually more work than help.
When in doubt, the list above is a great place to start. And if you aren’t able to help in those ways, just commit to praying for the families trying to find some semblance of normalcy.

{pictures from the tornado that destroyed our house in 2009}