Denise Manning is one of the church members who went to Tuscaloosa last weekend. I asked the group to provide some reflections, and sent them some guiding questions for their writing. Here are Denise’s thougths about our time of service.
Why did you go on this trip?-I was so moved by all the coverage on the television and the devastation. I just wanted to do anything to help.
How was it different from what you expected?-I was surprised at the clean up that has taken place so far but at the same time surprised at how much is left to do. I really did not have many expectations. I think on these type trips you know you may be walking into any situation.
Where did you see God during our time away?-I saw God in so many places while we were there. One example that I kept going back to was the sun peeking through the clouds each day. I noticed that a number of times while we were there. This made me think that God is always there even in the bad times when we think we do not see him, he is like the sun peeking through the clouds to give us hope and remind us he is always with us. I also saw God in the many individuals we met. From the stories we heard about people helping people they have never met to the many volunteers we met along the way. It is refreshing to see all the good that does happen in the world that mostly goes unnoticed. The news was filled with the devastation all over the world but not the wonderful things that are happening in Alabama today.
Share one story from someone you met.-The one story would like to share is of the individual who I assisted at the warehouse. She was looking to replace some of her things. I was assisting her in trying to find some clothing etc. She would ask me, does this look good together, what do you think? Here is a person who has lost everything but trying to make the most out of what she can and really looking to me for assistance. In truth I had no idea what I was doing but felt I truly am helping this person. It broke my heart when we could not find some of the items she needed and made me realize once again how lucky we are each day. Here is she wanting ANYTHING, she did not care of it matched or was used she just needed some items. Even something little such as socks that no one thinks about. Just imagine the items they do not have?! I was helping her load the items she had chosen in her car and I asked her, did you lose everything? She responded, “yes I lost everything, my trailer is completely gone.” We cannot imagine what that must feel like to lose ALL of your possessions and your home as well. She was not bitter though just thankful for everything she was able to find in the warehouse. It makes me think about how much more I can/should do to help people in need. It does not take a lot of time just a willing heart.
How did it feel to see the damage firsthand? How did that compare with what you expected? For me it was surreal to see the damage firsthand. Seeing things on the television of course hurts your heart but being there is so vastly different. On the television you do not see the people helping each other. You do not hear the stories of what they have lost and how they all pitched in to help each other. Neighbors who had never met were helping each other. I do not think there are words to describe how you feel when you are seeing all the damage. There is just no rhyme or reason. Five houses may have tremendous damage and then one house right next to them is standing tall with no damage whatsoever. It just does not make sense. I took a number of picture but found again when I was sharing them with others they cannot feel what I felt being there and seeing it in person.
What was the best/worst part of the trip?-The best part of the trip to me was getting to know some people in the church a little better and hearing the stories that people had to tell about assisting each other. The worst part of the trip would be the heat.
How are you different now than you were before?– I would like to think I am a little more understanding and sympathetic to what people may be going through. It is hard though when you are away from it and get back to the day to day to keep those images fresh.
What else needs to be done in the area? How can our church(es) continue to support this community? EVERYTHING. They need so much help. I mean we worked for two days and there were a number of volunteers at just that location and we could see there was still so much to be done. We can donate our time, send giftcards so they can give to people in need. We can send donations of specific needs etc.