This is one of those stories. One that should maybe be a book or a movie. One that shows how God weaves together people, places, and events for His good in His timing. It is long, but I promise you won’t be sorry. (*Some names changed to protect privacy).
A little background:
Twenty-four people lost their lives in Moore, OK two months ago. Seven of those were third graders at the Plaza Towers Elementary school. One of those boys was nine year old “Charlie”. Charlie’s younger sister,”Holly”,7, and older brother “Sam”,11, were also there and barely made it out alive themselves. Charlie’s family home was destroyed.
CitiIMPACT had set up a command center in Moore two days after the tornado. On one of those early days a woman named Stephanie came in saying that the city told her she had to go through us to set up her “Hope Tent”. She waited in line to speak to CEO, JD Smith. He didn’t have the time to hear her entire story but knew that God wanted to use her. He asked her is she’d like to be at the site of Plaza Towers School (now the main memorial site in the city) next to one of our cooking trailers. She broke down in tears.
Back a bit further . . . In Katrina days, JD Smith met a contractor from California named Rick. Rick partnered with us on a number of projects in Waveland but we really lost touch afterwards. Rick suggested to his church that we would be a good group to partner with in Oklahoma. The youth pastor, Ron contacted us to bring a team of 18, including Rick.
Ron’s story. Ten years ago a new family joined his church in California, they had just moved from TX. The teenage girl, Ashley, was pregnant. She was struggling with putting the baby up for adoption. Ron shared with her how this would be the biggest act of love. Ron knew this, as he was adopted as well. Ashley agreed. It was a semi open adoption, Ron and Ashley both spoke to the adoptive parents. When Ashley gave birth, Ron and his wife were there. He said the first prayer over “Emma” and gave her her first dress; one with strawberries that she wore home.
The pieces start to come together:
Remember Stephanie, her group is still there at the memorial site; praying with survivors and reaching out to families like Charlie’s who are mourning. However, Charlie’s family was still angry and distant. They didn’t want help. They didn’t want to talk.
Sunday, July 14th, 2013
Ron, Rick, and the rest of the team have their first day in OK. They attend church in the morning and then take the afternoon to get acclimated with the devastation. Their last stop is Plaza Towers School and the Hope Tent.
Charlie’s Dad, “John” is at the Hope Tent. Stephanie tries again, “What will you allow us to do to help you”? Finally, John agrees to let someone help them move.
Stephanie comes up to Ron and asks him if they could help a family move some boxes. Ron immediately says, “Yes” even though it is late in the day and without knowing that the family had lost a child.
John’s family had found a rental but were unable to move as every belonging that survived the tornado was a remembrance of Charlie. They were paralyzed in grief. Ron’s team helped them move boxes that night and were invited back the next day (and the next and the next).
Monday July 15th, 2013
The team continues to serve John’s family.
Holly gets lots of attention from the teen girls on the trip and they plan her room makeover. Holly’s good friend has stayed the night and wants to call home. One of the teens lets her use her phone. Evidently, much commotion arises. The girl’s mom, Kathy, sees the caller ID and is in a panic. Her daughter had been adopted from that same town in CA. Was the birth mom trying to make contact? She was relieved to hear Emma’s voice. The teens laugh it off and tell Ron. At the same time Ron is seeing Facebook messages from Ashley’s family, asking him to check on Emma as the last they knew she was in Moore. Ron asked the teens what Emma’s mom’s name is. Could it be the same Emma? YES, it was the Emma. Yes, she was right in front of him!!
Ron was able to talk to Emma’s mom, Kathy, for quite sometime. Kathy and her husband Brian are the only people besides family that John and his wife had opened up to before the team arrived. Emma and Charlie were friends and the same age. And . . . they still have the strawberry dress!
Rick called that night and shared some of his own story. He had lost a son 27 years ago, when he was just a year old. He never could come to grips with the “Why”. Rick shared that today he found the “Why”. He was able to share and pray with John, both Dad’s who had lost sons . .. healing 27 years in the making.
Ron’s team spent the majority of the week with this family.
The older boy, Sam, came home mid week. He had gone away for a number of weeks as it all was just too much. His best friend also died that day along with his brother. Sam now has 18 new
best friends who he can call at any time. By the time their week was done the family had smiles on their faces and a place to call home. On their last night in Moore, John took Ron’s team to the memorial site. Only family members of the seven kids who died are allowed inside the perimeter. John told the people at the gate that this group was his family. The team entered into the school rubble with Charlie’s family (and as Charlie’s family) They prayed, cried, and sang praise songs as they entered the room where his body was found.
In Closing: Wow. All those dots that it took to connect Ron’s team to John’s family AND to Emma’s family AND to be able to even know that it was THE Emma. These are not coincidences. This was God’s Divine plan. We pray that this can be a faith builder to you as well. So many lessons.
What stands out to you the most?