3 Practical Ways to Mobilize Aid After a Natural Disaster

Our community was recently smacked by a tornado. You might have heard about a couple little towns in the center of Arkansas, Mayflower and Vilonia? Yeah, that's us. Some of you reading this probably live in around our communities.

3 Practical Ways to Mobilizing Aid After a Nature Disaster

3 years ago, a massive but still smaller than this year's, tornado took nearly the same path through Vilonia.

As I tried to sift through the remains of my friends' home all I could think was, "How do these people know what to do? How do they know how to clean up rubble?"

After finally braving the question, I learned a few practical thing that I think might be helpful for others trying to come to the aid of those who have survived a disaster like this. I shared these three simple helps over at the Homemaker's Challenge Wednesday if ya wanna test'm out.

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The Odd Start to a Very Fitting Adventure

Sitting in the quiet, me in my glider and hubs in his man chair across the room, we did our newly found way to unwind involving reading and writing. This hadn’t always been our thing. God had just sparked something in my husband and he began to read. That may not sound abnormal to most but we aren’t readers. I mean, we can but It’s just not something we did for leisure. I had begun writing/blogging on as Jules is going as an outlet shortly after having Jamin, my third child in two and a half years.

The Odd Start to a Very Fitting Adventure

Seemingly out of nowhere, Matt says, “So…I think I’m supposed to be a pastor.” Again, this may not seem like a big deal to you because you either know that my husband was a youth pastor or have met us in this phase of life where he is a “grown-up pastor”. But you have to understand that we were “lifers”. We often discussed our discussed with those who used pastoring youth as some sort of stepping stone to get to the “major league” as if youth were a lesser being that earned lesser klout. Sickening, really.

We would joke about attending loud concerts and challenging young people to eat gross things all while we sported our gray hair. We deep loved {and Still do} youth. Our heart was to reach the next generation with the same timely gospel but with relevant tactics. If we ever transitioned, we thought maybe we would end up in collegiate ministry but never working with or pastoring/leading adults.

This nonchalant “I think I’m supposed to be a pastor” conversation didn’t go very far. Looking back, I wasn’t overly supportive but I wasn’t trying to be a discouragement. I literally thought, “Okay, this is his new kick. He’s got like a 6-week-timeline of excitement. I’ll wait it out and see what happens.” I nodded my head and with a slight giggle in my response said, “Okay” and we went back to what we were doing.

We’d been having a rough go with our current job. After being in a church-body for over 5-years starting when we were newlyweds, it was hard learning a new space, culture, and the expectations that come with that. I wasn’t going to let satan scare us into pastoring adults because of that. We were stronger than a few bumps in the road. I really just thought, “Things will calm down here. We’ll jump back on the wagon and get rolling soon.”

Needless to say, before even nearing the six weeks mark, Matt came to me and said, “Okay, I’ve been praying about it and not only do I think God wants me to be a pastor but I think He wants us to start a new church.” I’m not a good liar so I’m sure my face had laughter all over it. With eyes wide, I questioned like most of us do, “There are enough churches already, lots that need help, why in the world should we start a new one.”

You see, I was a firm believer that ‘lots of churches’ were just a result of The Church not being able to play-nice together. I wanted to be part of the solution, not add yet another division to the already segregated body of Christ.

Time passed. Matt read more and more on church-planting. I held out, still confused, waiting for the shiny to wear off. Over two and a half years later, the shiny has worn off, reality has set in, and it’s more evident today than it could ever be that God did/does want my husband to be a pastor. God did/does want our family to plant a new church.

We just thought Scotland was the adventure of a life time when we were given the opportunity to minister there. Boy was I wrong. I am so glad God softened my heart in a time of skepticism to get us all on the same page because if he hadn’t, I would be missing this awesome adventure. The one I’d always dreamed of. The adventure God had planned for our family. An adventure fit just for us!

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The church is not a building…

My husband came home and loaded my son when he got word we could make it through town to where our church’s meeting space once stood. I paced. I triple checked that my girls were still asleep. Finally, the oldest two awoke and I loaded my big girls and strapped a still sleeping baby into her carseat. I couldn’t do nothing.

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We poked our way through town. I have yet to ride through town...maybe its good. I haven't had the chance to take-in all the emptiness. I kept my eyes on the road. I carefully drove over downed power lines and past lines of care as we went down the path that deadly wind smeared through our community from southwest to northeast. I pulled up to the slab barricaded by debris just in time to see my husband pull his guitar from a back wall. I cheered yards away! God is so randomly good. He is in the big and in the small of our lives.

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I left my girls in the still-running van as I jumped out and wove my way through the maze of red iron, insulation and unrecognizables. I laughed as I looked at that empty slab. It was as if someone had taken a giant shopvac, sucked everything up, and then blew it out from the center of the building.

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The strong cinderblock walls lay on the ground as if that burst of materials from within the facility just tipped them over like a poorly constructed toddler creation. The walls, still in tacked, laid flat on three sides several feet away from where they were formerly attached to their foundation.

I will remember our Covenant

The only wall remaining stands as a beckon to the world that my God reigns. He makes and KEEPS promises. Our world may be torn to piece by our sin but He is coming back. Those colored walls that were once the valley kids' hall can now be the only thing of color spotted among the public pictures of drab scraps.

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Matt ran home to uniform himself for digging for scraps of what once held our church as they worshiped and our babies as they were loved-on. I stood in amazement at what was left. The call that morning at 3:30 had confirmed, “It’s gone. Completely gone. There’s nothing left.” But there was something. There were glimpses of the generosity that had been poured on us over the past. I dug my kids out of the car and guided them through nails and gagged building. All worries about how I would answer tough questions floated up to my Lord as my children giggled on that dirty slab. Cheered as they retrieved strown markers under the edge of sheetrock.

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Moments later, like a tear-jerking scene in a movie, the church, our people, Christ’s followers that met in the space just the day before poured in from every angle. Trucks with trailers, men with work gloves, and women with bright eyes galloped with a hope that only comes from a saving knowledge of Jesus onto the slab. In a town full of desperation, His hope oozed. God’s not dead, He’s surely alive. He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion. Digging like a grown man. Giggling like a child. Glowing like a valley girl.

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The “clean-up” call from Facebook turned into a unifying block-party of sorts for this growing body of believers. Crossing from one side of the “building” to the other, you could hear the echoes of our people reassuring one another, “The church is not a building, it’s the people chasing after Jesus.” As curfew for our town neared, we began clearing plates of donated food and drinks, hugged, and cheerfully swapped stories of where we planned to get to work in the morning. Testimonies of what God was already doing in and through the members of the valley were evidence that the valley is here for such a time as this! Each individual is here to be used in a way that no one else could be. They are willing and ready to answer God’s calling to join Him and the work He’s started in Vilonia.

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How to Help Vilonia AR in the Aftermath of a Tornado

I know at least one of the big reasons God planted my family in this community a little over a year ago.

Esther 4:14

14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Our family is a cog. A go-between. An ambassador. A contact from you to them. An adversary. We are ministers of Reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[b] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

If you prefer to give to someone you know, the valley church {our church plant} has set up an online giving site HERE. We plan to use these funds to help the community and possibly start to rebuild a meeting space.

download and print the list below HERE {as well as some added info for volunteers}

DONATION LOCATION (Vilonia)

Beryl Baptist Church (873 Main St, Vilonia, AR 72173)
-Food and supplies (no clothes)

Point of Grace Baptist Church (767 Hwy. 64 B, Conway, AR 72032)
-Money, food, clothes, and supplies

Vilonia Church of Christ
(893 Main Street, Vilonia, AR 72173)
-Face masks
-Sunscreen
-Bottled Water/Drinks
-Work Gloves
-Storage Tubs with Lids (the lids are important!)
-Trash Bags
-Shovels and other Hand Tools
-Gift Cards
-Snack Foods (Individually wrapped, no cooking needed)
-Fuel for camp stoves

The Valley Church (PO Box 152 Vilonia AR 72173)
-gift cards
-money
-small supplies

DONATION LOCATION (Conway)

The Ministry Center will be accepting donations Tues-Thursday from 9-3
701 Polk St. (near Oak & Harkrider) Conway, AR 72034
-Non-perishable food items (easy open/easy prep)
-Baby formula
-Diapers
-Wipes
-Hand sanitizer
-Tarps (preferably large)
-Work gloves
-Heavy duty trash bags
-Plastic storage containers
-Batteries
-Flashlights
-New blankets
-New pillows
-Towels
-Personal hygiene items of all kinds
-Bottled water
-Over the counter meds
-First aide supplies

New Life Church Conway campus and GLR campus are taking donations of ALL kinds.
(8000 Chrystal Hill Rd. NLR, Ar)

The Vintage Marketplace
(444 Hwy 64 E, Conway, AR)
Our store will be a drop off point from 10-2 each day for supplies and non perishable items needed for tornado relief in Vilonia. Items needed at this time: plastic storage bins with lids, gallon buckets, work gloves, shovels, rakes, trash bags, flash lights, batteries, bottled water, non perishable snacks, sanitizing wipes, paper towels, and any items you think would help in clean up. Also needing kerosine lamps, candles, lighters, pillows, blankets, towels, and toiletries.
*A trailer full of flashlights, batteries, snacks, etc. can be picked up at Sweet Heat BBQ on the intersection of Hwy 64 & 107/Naylor Rd.

FEEDING CENTER

Select sources of food are scattered along Hwy 64/Main St
BBQ Lunch and Dinner will be provided at Vilonia First Baptist on Wed., April 30th
(1206 Main Street, Vilonia, AR)

RED CROSS EMERGENCY SHELTERS

(The shelters are providing cots, blankets and food for the displaced residents.)
Beryl Baptist Church (873 Main St, Vilonia)
Mars Hill Church of Christ (1028 County Line Road, Vilonia)
Point of Grace Baptist Church (767 Hwy. 64 B, Conway)
St. Joe’s Catholic Church (1115 College Ave., Conway)
Oak Bowery Baptist Church (889 Otto Road, Conway)
Antioch Baptist Church (150 Amity Road, Conway)

MONEY DONATIONS

Salvation Army
-Donations can be made online at http://salvationarmyaok.org/caac/

-By phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY(1-800-725-2769).

-You can also text the word "STORM" to 80888 to make a $10 donation through your mobile phone; to confirm your gift, respond with the word “Yes."*

-Donations in the form of checks designated to Arkansas Tornado Relief may also be mailed to:The Salvation ArmyPO Box 738North Little Rock, AR 72115-0738

TORNADO VICTIM/WORKER CHILDCARE

"Gentle Hands Learning Center is extending our facility to you. If you need childcare while helping out, or if your home is destroyed, I personally want to welcome you to our center. This is my way of returning the blessing that we received 3 years ago; as being in the middle of repairing and dealing with insurance 3 years ago myself. My heart and prayers are with each and everyone that has been affected by this. God bless each and everyone of you."

Gentle Hands Learning Center
1003 Main Street.
Vilonia, AR 72173
796-8878 (After hours phone 501-514-4475)
Due to the curfew hours we are open
7:00am to 6:00pm Monday-Friday

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Moving On After Moving

Moving.

Moving On After Moving

Yeah, we all say confidently, "I told God I would go where ever He sends me." as if that makes being a nomad any easier. We'll say, "We plan to settle in like we are here to retire." as to reassure our new congregation but the fear still lurks.

We just celebrated our 1 year anniversary at the valley here in Vilonia but we haven't even lived in our home for a year {until July} and it's happened. God allowed us to have that ideal neighbor relationship. The one where you stock one another our  the window wondering if it's too soon to invite them over for another playdate, dinner, or nap-time chat in the yard. Blessed isn't the half of what we've experienced.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who God can choose to move.

Today, I'm just sharing my heart about the toll moving takes on friendship in our lives. Find the rest of this post over at A Common Bond.

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