When I first heard the initial estimates some people being without power for a month, and of the ice storm clean up taking up to a year, I thought it was hyperbole. Now, I am slowly realizing the reality. Our disaster has been classified as a major disaster. Hurricane Katrina was "only" a disaster. The death toll in Kentucky is up to 33.
The people that have come to the church to eat at meals we have prepared daily are from all walks of life: some are our own church members who are still without power or other utilities, while others come from other parts of the Greater Paducah area suffering the same fate. Some are lineman from telephone, cable, and electric companies from all over the U.S. Others are professional tree cutters. Many of the volunteer groups coming in have eaten with us. And some folks have been gracious enough to simply sit down with folks, listen to their stories, and pray with them. We in the Reidland community have learned a lot about fellowship, community, and Christian servanthood & discipleship. All of us have been humbled.
Some disasters that have spun off from the major disaster have broken my heart. The schools tell us that many children are going home to dark houses that are empty - not just from absent parents, but empty of food. Because of costs incurred by many in the ice storm, those who were already living check-to-check find themselves in dire straits. Also, there are some who are out of work or working fewer hours because their employers are not running full strength, and with less pay coming in and the added expenditures of gasoline for generators and non-perishable food, they have less money to pay the bills that continue to come in the mail. All of this in a sour economy is creating a disaster of its own.
There are disasters spinning off of the ice storm disaster. A Minnesota lineman was killed and another one critically injured while working on a pole trying to restore power. Yesterday, winds of 50+ mph undid some work done, and created new work to do. Trucks have accidentally snagged low-lying temporary electric and communications lines (I've never seen a telephone pole temporarily erected in the median of an Interstate highway, have you?).
So, along with feeding folks one hot meal a day, we are also distributing bottled water and family-size MRE's for those in need. Those in rural areas without electricity are often dependent on wells for their water, and without electricity they have no access to fresh water.
I am blessed that the conference disaster recovery coordinator is a member of my church. Tomorrow, he, along with our bishop, district superintendent, conference director, and conference communications director are going to be here to help us spread the word and encourage outside groups to help us in clean up and in counseling storm victims.
I'm also blessed to live in Reidland. Folks from Reidland UMC, Reidland Baptist, Reidland Church of Christ, and Gospel Mission Church have been so helpful with meals, cleanup, and serving. What a wonderful way to exhibit the Body of Christ!
I know from being in the midst of a disaster before that healing of land, homes, and people is slow. Yet, life continues, and the need for balance and patience is great. But I also know that when things are at their worst, the Body of Christ is often at its best. I continue to pray that this is the case, and hope you will join my prayers.