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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.