Salt and Light in the Trenches of Life: Matthew 5:13-16
““13) You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “14)You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15) nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16) Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16.
We are back home with our families after a five day trip to Kentucky to work in Gilbertsville doing tornado clean up. It was basically a twelve hour drive each way. Our goal was to move our equipment down, register with local authorities as a non-profit response group, set up our staging area, assess damage and start doing clean up work as soon as possible.
Because of advance work done by a few local contacts, we hit the ground running the very first morning. We brought down two skid loaders on tracks, one escalator with rubber tracks, one dump trailer and two enclosed trailers filled with tools, chain saws and other equipment like an air compressor and generator. Our team had eight people plus we picked up a few more volunteers down there. Let me share a few stories.
Our first contact was helping an elderly couple named Ken and Betty. They survived the tornado laying in an interior closet. 2/3rds of the house and the garage were literally destroyed and blown away from around them. Plus tons of debris from other homes around them were blown onto their property by the storm. All trees were down and twisted like tooth pics mingled in with the debris. The whole residential area looked like a major bomb had exploded followed by 2 inched of relentless rain which added to the ruin and devastation.
Keep in mind, we arrived approximately six days after the storm. When we got to their property, Ken and Betty were still wandering in a daze. The initial contact with insurance companies had just been completed and they received permission to start clean up and demolition of what was left of the house.
When we walked onto the property that first morning and introduced ourselves, Ken and Betty were both happy to have helping hands, but also a bit skeptical. We were strangers to them. We were also in shock at the magnitude of the damage and wondering where to start.
We spent the first morning connecting with Ken and Betty, listening to their stories and helping them sort through the debris in search of precious memories and things they could salvage. My wife Debby spent half an hour with Betty taking some ornaments off the Christmas tree that was blown into the front yard. I spent time with Ken who was feeble and walking with a Cain. We would work a while and then just sit and talk. People are our number one priority. Second, third and fourth are safety, safety and safety. Running chain saws in twisted rubble is dangerous work.
We were there to do more than just remove debris, we were there to minister to Ken and Betty and protect their emotional well-being. We soon discovered they were believers and had incredible attitudes for what they has just been through.
At one point Ken looked at me with a smile and said, “Every day is good, God gives me a new chance every day to make a difference.” Later he added, “I’m thankful this happened to me and not some other people. God gives me the strength and grace to move forward, but it might have destroyed other people.” There were times that our rolls were reversed and Ken was ministering to me. I quickly grew to love and admire that man.
While most of us were working under the direction of Ken and Betty, the equipment crew started tree removal and cutting a driveway into the side of the property. The ground was saturated with rain and the clay made it essential to have tracks on our equipment. Rubber air filled tires would have been destroyed the first few hours on the job.
By our second day, it was time for clean up to begin in earnest. Dennis Anderson, who is our Domestic Director was running the excavator and sorting through debris as he moved forward. Watching him operate equipment was amazing. Trees and brush had to be separated from household goods and building debris.
Often he uncovered things that needed to be salvaged. Several times he sighted things as small as a family baby picture, documents or hand tools. Other times it was uncovering a lawn mower, power washer, generator or shop tools. The vast majority of stuff was beyond salvage.
After the first day and a half, Ken and Betty gave the green light start moving the mountain of debris in earnest. The sorting and salvage was done. Our job was to get the debris to the curb, and contractors with huge double dump trailers with grapple loaders would come by and load the debris to take to the dump sight. Trees and limbs where brought to a separate area.
While most of our team was working at Ken and Betty’s property, Barb was out meeting neighbors, listening to stories and arranging more sights for us to work. She brought Christmas presents to one family that had lost everything. There are many ways to say “God loves you!” Other neighbors also started stopping by and asking for help.
We had become a light of hope. As relationships formed, we heard amazing stories of miracles in the midst of the tragedy. We listened and planted gospel seeds with many people. I gave away many crosses and briefly shared the story of the cross with people. By that point their hearts were wide open.
By the end of day three, nearly all debris were removed from Ken and Betty’s and the surrounding two properties. There is still a lot of worked needed taking down the house and fine cleaning the properties, but the contrast from beginning to end was astounding. Hope was rushing in like a ray of bright light.
Ken and Betty’s church was several miles from the damaged area. They stepped up an provided hot meals each evening for storm victims and workers. It became our evening ritual to spend a few hours there with the church family. More friendships were fostered.
It is amazing when you get in the trenches with people in crisis how quickly friendships are formed not only with property owners but with fellow volunteers. I have many new friends in my life from this short trip.
So what’s next? Our team came home for Christmas with our families. We left all equipment in Kentucky either at Ken and Betty’s house or at our staging area at a resort that opened its doors for housing.
A heavy equipment team will start returning around December 28 and begin more property clean up and house demolition. We need to screen people who are competent to run chain saws, skid loaders and escalators. We urgently need a good mechanic to join the team. We will need these kinds of volunteers for the next two or three months.
Starting around the second week in January, volunteers will be needed to assist with detailed property cleaning. There is still volumes of stuff that need to be hand picked from the properties. Many other teams are pulling out completely. People need to return to their jobs. GoServ Global will be there for the long haul.
Our most urgent need right now is donations toward this deployment. We estimate around $3,500 a week for fuel, food and maintenance of equipment. We also need a steady stream of volunteers starting the second week January through March when we anticipate our deployment to wrap up.
Please, please, please keep us in your prayers. Pray for safety, endurance, open doors for ministry, favor with government officials, physical and mental health, volunteers for the long haul and abundant financial supply.
GoServ Global is also in need of more full time staff both in the office and for our domestic response division. Our office needs a full time social media and marketing director, development coordinator and a full time short term mission team coordinator. Domestic Response desperately needs a full time mechanic and full time warehouse manager and organizer.
To donate toward this cause, either send a check to the GoServ Global Office ear marked for “Kentucky Response”, or go to the GoServ Global Web page and donate on line. The address for GoServ Global is found on our web page.
Also, feel free to private message me or text my cell phone for more information. If you text me, please leave name, contact information and a brief message. Thank you so much for being part of the rapidly growing GoServ Global family.
Terry Baxter Cofounder of GoServ Global
Salt and Light in the Trenches of Life: Matthew 5:13-16