After the Storm
“For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41).
On February 29, a devastating tornado ripped through a small southern Illinois town about thirty miles away from our town. We felt the high winds and rain from the storm, but we did not experience the devastation the storm brought to Harrisburg, Illinois. Many homes and businesses were destroyed, and several lives were lost. Hundreds of people suffered injury and were without food, shelter, and basic necessities.
Our youth group is called “3116.” The 3,116th word in the Bible is “servants.” One of the principles we are trying to teach our kids is service. Jesus reached out to people and took care of their needs. He showed us we cannot just have “pretty church.” To be like Him, we need to be willing to reach out to our world and get our hands dirty.
On the day of the Harrisburg tornado, we made a call to our church members at 5:30 in the evening, and by 7:00 pm, our lobby was full of clothes, shoes, and water to be taken to the storm victims. That evening in youth service, one of our students passed his hat around, and our small group of kids gave $200. Believe me—these are mostly kids from very low-income families.
The next day, our young adults and students sat outside our town’s Walmart and collected supplies like water, toiletries, canned goods, and nearly $1,000.00 to be given to the UPC church in Harrisburg to distribute to those in need. One of our students brought a trunk load of groceries she had bought herself after receiving the call.
A group of us went to Harrisburg that day, taking two truckloads and a van full of supplies. We worked the clothing drive at Rivers of Life Church, pastored by Brother Gentry. The fellowship hall and pews in the Sanctuary were full of clothing we separated and placed on tables for families to choose what they needed. We gave them toiletries, bedding, and bags of clothes.
There were hundreds who came through their Sanctuary to receive clothes. We also worked at the Golden Center for the elderly, where the storm had done great damage, going through rubble, finding, and retrieving patients’ charts. On that Sunday, Rivers of Life Church participated in a community service where over 1,000 people attended.
Nothing can replace what the victims of the Harrisburg storm lost on February 29th. We aren’t trying to be heroes. Jesus taught us to serve those around us. Young people love to help those in need—give them a chance and they’ll outdo themselves!
We were privileged to attend the Youth Congress in North Carolina where we were taught to BE THE CHURCH. It changed us. We are trying to fulfill the call of Christ by loving those in our world, even when it means getting our hands dirty. I’ve never worked so hard or ached so much as I did the day after the storm. And I’ve never felt more fulfilled.