The Valley. A beautiful, peaceful place. place where everyone knew everyone else. A place where bare feet were common, where clothes flapped on a clothesline in the breeze. A place where people still hand milked cows, where families grew gardens, and it wasn’t uncommon to see children outside, running around, playing together, enjoying the thrill of just being children.
A place where people gathered together under starry skies to play instruments together — the good ‘ole bluegrass tunes that got your toes to tapping and and your hands to clapping, beating out a time with the music. A place where play days were held, with friends gathering to talk over life in general. A place where front porch swings were a must-have for gathering in the cool evening air.
An old fashioned place with all the modern conveniences. A place where time slowed down, and families enjoyed being families. A place where hospitality abounded, a friend who “dropped in” stayed and ate supper and drank coffee and talked pleasantly.
It was a road that we traveled down often. A road we traveled down every Sunday for two and a half years of my life, to join other believers for a Bible study. A road we traveled down to get milk from a friend’s home. A road we traveled down for different gatherings….play days….work days….
It was all taken away with no warning on the night of “The Storm”…..everything. The trees were no more, and the trees that were still there were — and still are — bent in eternal homage to the presence of God that walked among them in that mighty wind that ripped through.
We turned down the road, dually forewarned that “The Storm” had traveled through before us. And right as you turned into The Valley there was nothing that had once been. Trees were picked up and overturned as if a hand had gently laid it to sleep. Power lines were pulled down, bowing in humble brokenness at the feet of the terrible wind. Houses were destroyed, as if they were tiny affairs built out of legos and someone had pushed them over, watching them crash.
“Jesus draw me ever nearer as I labour through this storm,
You have called me to this passage, And I’ll follow though I’m worn.
Let this journey bring a blessing, let me rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my hearts testing with Your likeness let me wake….”
The road I was so familiar with was so very unfamiliar. Parts of peoples homes lay alongside the road….peoples lives lay scattered about. A family picture here, a mirror there, a roof wrapped around the power lines, books in trees, an instrument case tossed into a pasture. We crawled along the road, and only recognized one landmark. A fence made out of power poles. It was still there. We could see places we never could before because of the trees being down…..the trees that normally blocked our view being scattered on the ground.
Several of our friends homes were decimated, looking more like a war scene than a family home. We stopped at one of the houses and didn’t recognize even a feature of the land. The creek, bubbling behind the house that had seemed so far away through the trees was just right there. The tree that we had played under at their home…..where was it? Was this really the place we had helped press sorghum at just a few short months ago?
The Lord gave us all a challenge that day, a challenge I pray that I will never face again. The challenge of helping friends pick up their lives, quite literally, and helping them move on. Helping them move on, all while mourning the loss of the homes they had grown up in, the family member who wasn’t there and never would be again, the loss of normality. Helping them move on while praising God, who is faithful through every storm in life. Crying with them. Holding them close. Laughing with them. Praying with them and for them. Listening to the stories that came out of the mess — stories that reveal that the Lord “will never leave us nor forsake us” — that He is omnipresent, all-powerful, a God to be feared. Hearing about the blessing of a chair coming out of nowhere to support the head and shoulders of a friend mere milliseconds before her brother and father jumped over her to protect her, and the roof fell in. An old blanket cabinet emptying itself of all it’s contents and falling open over several siblings, creating a safe cubby space. A mother with a house on her, trapped and not knowing whether all her children were all right, with no way of getting to them, telling people who came to help to go to her neighbors instead, because they did not know Christ and might be injured or dying.
“….Jesus guide me through the tempest, keep my spirit stayed and sure,
And when the midnight meets the morning let me love You even more.
May this journey bring a blessing, may I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my hearts testing, with Your likeness let me wake….”
It was a blessing to see the community of believers come together. Several of the men and young men who were the first into the valley, helping and ministering to people, I knew. They were the hands and feet of Christ that night, helping souls, bringing comfort, and shedding tears. They responded as Christians should…..not waiting, just going. Not complaining because they would get their hands dirty, but plunging in and working tirelessly to get people out. We were there as people from other states started making their way in. “I saw this on the news…how can I help?” “I am from Tennessee…..I’ve brought food and clothing.” I’m from Texas, and we are here to help, just tell us how.” People — strangers and friends — had left everything when they heard what had happened down south. Nearly all of them identified with Christ, and were willing to enter into a strangers suffering because the body of Christ has been commanded to bear one anothers burdens.
It was amazing to witness. Yes, I had seen “our community” — our Bible Study and the churches from our area — as they came together to support a family who we knew and loved as they were preparing to welcome a much prayed for child into the world and almost immediately say “good-bye”. The baby had spina bifida and several chromosome disorders. Instead of terminating the pregnancy and murdering the baby, they chose to give him life, and welcome him into the world, into their family, and shower him with a self-less love. They chose to give of themselves, expecting to be left with empty arms, and hearts soothed only by God’s grace. That was wonderful to witness, a blessing in the sadness…..But this? This coming together on a national level, from all over the US, to support one another simply because all were related in Christ was phenomenal! I was blessed to meet several other believers from all over the world.
“The Storm” wreaked havoc and brought blessings simultaneously as it went on it’s way through The Valley. It revealed the hearts of people. It was the last trial for many souls who had run the race for a long while, and were ready to rest secure in the arms of Jesus. It was a point of no return, a point where you were forced to examine yourself and see if you truly followed Christ, or if you were depending on your own strength.
“….May the treasures of his trial form within me as I go,
And at the end of this long passage let me leave them at Your throne.
May this journey bring a blessing, may I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my hearts testing with Your likeness let me wake.”
~May This Journey Bring a Blessing, by Keith and Kristyn Getty~
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