No disaster deployment has visually or emotionally impacted me more than Moore. It was complete and utter devastation – pick-up sticks that used to be houses, mountains of debris, and faces that seemed paralyzed with the shock of what had just happened. The 2-mile swath of destruction from an EF5 tornado, with threats of other tornadoes popping up during the deployment. It was the first time I learned to speak to the storms that loomed against us as we send teams out into the field. It was the first time ADRN volunteers were asked to be ambassadors to people as they gathered resources from the various agencies around the joint assistance center. There are no words that can accurately convey what it’s like to look all around you and see “nothing left”, and yet, amidst the piles of rubble, story after story was streaming in how “the wall with the picture of Jesus on it was untouched”, or “the angel on mantle was still standing on the mantle”, or “when I prayed to the Lord, somehow I wasn’t sucked up into the twister when it passed over us”, or “I happened to pick up my kid early that day and was able to get to safety”.
During this disaster, I became personally invested in so many of the stories: paying for two nights of a hotel room for a single mom who needed a place to stay that night to get out of an abusive home; paying for dinner and two nights at a hotel for a homeless woman I found near a trash bin out back; listening to children verbalize their trauma not only from the disaster, but also from life trauma that was there prior to the tornado; listening to a father in full denial of the injuries sustained to his family; calming a hysterical woman who had just reached the too-much-threshold; debriefing an American Red Cross volunteer who was depressed and yet on week 5 of service in the field. I was so drained at the end of this deployment. I found myself working from the flesh instead of stepping into the Spirit and operating from a place of communion with Jesus.
When you learn to operate in the Spirit, you can serve without carrying the emotional burden of the survivors; you can lay their worries at the feet of Jesus and let Him who is able bring them comfort by lightening their load. Disaster relief volunteers cannot and must not fall into the Messiah complex. It’s like quicksand to ministry – you think you’re gaining momentum and making a difference, but in reality, you are just sinking yourself and the survivor into a hope that is not based on Jesus, the solid Rock.
As it so happens, this deployment was the first time I also experienced Holy Spirit debriefing, which is when the Holy Spirit debriefs you supernaturally, and in my case (a fond memory shared with Susan Martin) happens to be hysterical laughter erupting from seemingly nowhere – the kind of laughter where you have to hold on to something because your sides are splitting and it’s hard to breathe, and there may be some snorting and crying involved, but in the end, you are completely relaxed and still. I wish I could say that it was a one-time experience, but since the Moore deployment, it has become a common occurrence when I reach that threshold of being sleep-deprived, detail-flooded, and slap-happy. Yeah, stick around and you’ll probably get to this phenomena first hand. : )
Pictures on scene
ADRN: “Lifted from the rubble”
YouTube – “The first 10 minutes of the Moore EF5 Tornado: 05/20/2013”
Huffington Post – “Oklahoma Tornado 2013 devastates Moore”