By Kim Gingerich and Tim Sheaffer
On June 4, around 6:30 p.m., an EF3-rated tornado touched down in Berthoud, Colo. The tornado was 200 yards wide with maximum sustained winds of 135-140 miles per hour. It tracked 5 miles during the 13 minutes it was on the ground.
On Friday evening volunteers with the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site in Greeley, Colo., decided to drive to the area that was struck to see if there was anything we could do to help. Phone calls were also made to the Long Term Recovery Groups (LTRGs) Brethren Disaster Ministries is currently working with to see if they knew of any immediate needs.
Late Saturday morning we received a call notifying us of a family that needed assistance in clearing out the many trees that had been extensively damaged on their property. With chainsaw, gloves, and bug spray in hand, we headed out to Tim and Mim’s. Along with some other volunteers, we began cutting down trees and removing the many limbs and branches that were strewn about the property.
The owners could not stop thanking us as they worked right with us. A smile and look of gratitude, mixed with relief, crossing their faces every time they spoke those words.
After working for several hours, we asked this couple if they were aware of anyone else that might be in need of a helping hand. They were quick to let us know of several neighbors who they believed needed some assistance also.
We headed across the street to a property that included a petting zoo. Once we met up with the property owner, Nicole, she was more than willing to take us out to the fields to show us the pieces of twisted metal, boards with nails, and other debris that had been placed there by the mighty winds of the tornado. She related her story of trying to get all the animals to safety before the storm struck. The camels were penned up in a small area–she was afraid to let them out in the fields where they usually roamed for fear of injury from the strewn about debris. As we told her that we could bring a group of volunteers during the week to pick up the debris, you could see the sense of relief in her face. She was eager to have our help.
The youth group and advisors from Mohican Church of the Brethren in Ohio, who were in Colorado to volunteer, were more than willing to pitch in. They combed many acres of fields picking up debris, making it safe once again for the camels and other animals.
Back at the volunteer house that evening, I heard several of them comment about the power of a tornado. Seeing the devastation that a tornado can cause brought home the reality of its destructive powers in a very real way.
Even though both of the families we helped clean up had been through a frightening ordeal, they said that they were fortunate, that God was watching out for them, and that others were far worse off than they were.
On Saturday we visited two other houses that Tim and Mim told us about. The first house had a horse trailer land in the middle of the living room. The roof and windows were gone. Fear and shock remained on the face of the wife. They said thanks, but no thanks, to our offer of help. We have come to understand that people react in many different ways in the face of storms.
The final house we went to was a total loss. The brick chimney was intact but was laying in the yard. The side of the house was gone, and the homeowner was sitting on a chair in the exposed living room. Many people were working in the driveway packing up belongings that could be salvaged. They worked under the direction of a young lady who, when she saw pictures of this house in the news, immediately recognized it as the home of a former teacher. She had called him to ask what she could do to help, and then got busy organizing a group to pack up the salvageable belongings of her former science teacher.
“Serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). This is the scripture text on the back of the Brethren Disaster Ministries t-shirts. In times of need, in the storms of life, it is our call to serve one another in love–love that moves us to acts of compassion. Neighbor helping neighbor, student helping teacher, stranger helping stranger….each serving one another in love.
It is Christ’s example. How can we do anything less?
— Kim Gingerich and Tim Sheaffer are serving as long-term project leaders for Brethren Disaster Ministries, which this year started a new rebuilding project site in Greeley, Colo. For more information about Brethren Disaster Ministries go to www.brethren.org/bdm .