Some experiences in life you really want to forget, because the pain is too much to bear. That is quite understandable. All of us could cite a chapter and verse about such episodes of failure and sadness. On the other hand, there are experiences, even the most anguishing and painful ones, which demand our personal reflection and remembrance. Let’s think about one very close to home for all of us.
For the people of Alabama, we have one of those sad but memorable moments ahead of us. On April 27, we will mark the first anniversary of the worst weather-related tragedy in the history of our beloved state. You remember this horrific day. It was when 62 tornadoes, five of them F5s, came roaring through Alabama, and other states, with a fierce force of power unforeseen by almost all of us.
Forty-two of our 67 counties were impacted, some of them catastrophically, by this unprecedented outbreak of tornadoes. Those of us who witnessed the scenes of destruction in the early hours after the incidents were moved to tears and almost speechless as we viewed the indescribable debris and rubble caused by these tornadoes. Those memories are deeply etched in our minds.
I vividly recall being interviewed by a Birmingham television station reporter who said to me, “I do not know what to ask you. I am going to let you just look at me and at the camera, and talk to the audience. ” Never before has a reporter said anything resembling that comment to me. The camera light came on and, with adrenaline flowing from a body tired from travel and interacting with those severely impacted by this disaster, I began to thank Alabama Baptists and other disaster relief workers. I shared my raw emotions of what I had seen and felt during these early hours of response.
Now, a painful anniversary is approaching! The individuals and families of those impacted by the tornadoes will remember their painful experiences as if they had just happened. They will mourn afresh the loss of lives and the damage to homes and other property. They will recall the sounds of unspeakable terror that only tornadoes can make. They will recall the calm aftermath of these storms, which seemed so surreal, given the major destruction around them.
How can we all best take time to remember this first anniversary of the unprecedented outbreak of tornadoes? First, I believe a time of worship is the best response. On the Sunday before the actual date, the 22nd, I pray we will gather to worship the living Lord with a renewed sense of commitment to Him. There is no better response, in good or bad times, than that of God’s people gathering to worship Him!
Second, a special time of remembrance of all affected by the tornadoes, most especially the families of the victims, would be an appreciated response on this day of reflection. Some of us know these families and for them this first anniversary will be excruciatingly painful. This is an opportunity to love on them and let them know that the Lord loves them! This is personifying His love in ways that cannot be measured in the here and now.
Third, as Alabama Baptists, we have chosen this day for a special offering for general disaster relief. When tragic weather events happen, we at the State Board of Missions are called upon very quickly to respond to the situations and meet the needs of people. We have tornadoes frequently and, thankfully, they are not of the April 27, 2011 magnitude. However, every one of these storms demands some kind of response from us and, we seek to do what we can and where we can for those in need following such disaster-related events.
This offering for general Disaster Relief will help us be prepared for these occasions. The funds will be used for first response kind of approaches to the catastrophic occurrences. Our disaster relief workers will be called out to do all kinds of ministries following hurricanes and tornadoes in Alabama and beyond. Your gifts given for disaster relief will make a huge difference in these challenging times of need.
Perhaps a good way to measure a goal for your church is to seek to give one dollar per resident member. Many churches can and will give more than this amount, but any contribution will be appreciated and allocated for disaster relief responses in times of tragic events. Regrettably, we have not seen our last tornado or hurricane. We are a coastal state and, some say we are past due for another hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. That is a solemn but certain prediction.
All gifts need to be over and above Cooperative Program contributions. Giving through the Cooperative Program provides us with the personnel so we can do the ministry in the impacted areas. One hundred percent of the disaster relief funds will be used to help in responding to the churches and the people as needs arise. Please give prayerful consideration to this important request. Let me thank you in advance for all you give to this general Disaster Relief Offering and for what you do in the name of Christ when the disasters come our way yet again.