A Little Dose of Humble Pie does Wonders for the Soul

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Monday, May 27th, my team and I traveled to Oklahoma City, OK. This week and a half has been quite a whirlwind; I honestly cannot believe it’s already June 6th. This last week and a half we experienced many firsts and many…many emotions. Although I haven’t watched any of the news or TV since I left on May 19th, I believe many stories and photos have been shared about the tornado that hit Moore, Ok. Well, I dare to say that those pictures and actual documentation does not for one second hold justice to the devastation that has occurred in this small, humble town. I am not even sure whether or not I could explain the incredibly horrifying streets and lack of standing neighborhoods left. When driving up the highway when approaching Oklahoma City , we witnessed the area that was affected right off the highway. It one of those things that is so terrible to see but you can’t take your eyes off of it.

We spent the first couple of days in OKC getting acclimated with the city, our new surroundings and with our program that we were about to start with our very first team of teens! We stayed at Holy Angels Church in OKC, sleeping on the tile floors of their Religious Ed Classrooms and using a hose to take a shower in! I can now say that having a bed and a shower is truly a luxury that is taken for granted. I am so thankful to be given this opportunity to just trust in the Lord that I will be given the strength to make it to the next day. Also- cool note is that this is a Spanish community and so all the daily masses we went to were in Spanish! What an amazing and joyous culture to experience.

Our joy-filled group of teenagers came in to OKC on Wednesday, June 29th. This group is from St. Joseph’s Academy (high school) in Brownsville, Tx. The teens either live in Brownsville, TX (10 mins away from the Mexico border) or they live in the city on the boarder of Mexico. The families that live in this nearby city in Mexico find good, Catholic education to be of their top priority; because of this mentality they have their kids get visas and allow them to travel into the United States  (to Texas) every day to go to school. How amazing! I was really nervous about having our first team of teenagers come in because I didn’t really know what to expect. But, these teens were AMAZING! All 45 of them were so full of life and joy that their willingness to serve was really like second nature. The group at St. Joe’s holds serving the community in such high esteems…so much so that they actually have a waiting list to go on the Summer Catholic Mission Trip. I was talking to their youth leader, Tony , and he told me that they have 120 people come to the information meeting, 75-85 teens apply to the mission trip and then they only choose 45 of those that applied. These teens truly inspired me this week, I feel incredibly grateful that I was not only able to help serve them this week but work right next to each of them. 

Our team spent the week working our booties off! We went around the city of Moore, Little Axe and Norman to help with the tornado damages. We did various jobs that includes packing up apartments/houses and transporting surviving household items to a storage unit or new home, debris clean up, cutting down trees, demolition, chain sawing trees that were already torn down, picking up trash, and moving big items thrown over the towns to the curb. I met the most amazing people…the tornado victims, volunteers and the whole community have been visible throughout the past week. I have to say, this town has been so hospitable to our teams and all the volunteers. Not one day since being here have we had to pay or find lunch, drinks and snacks.  Various churches, organizations and even homeowners have brought boxed foods and drink every day! It’s so inspiring to see how God can throw a tornado at a town and somehow that brings the world a little closer together. I mean there was a man I met that literally flew down to Oklahoma from AUSTRAILIA just to help with the disaster relief. HOW AMAZING! God is moving in major ways here. There are signs on homes, fences, buildings and around the streets claiming that “Jesus loves us” , “Praise Him in this storm”, and “God loves the broken hearted”. It’s amazing when you combine faith with hope. It’s funny, I feel like I’m actually able to see God and His work more through this community than I am back at home. He is so visible in the face of the distressed.

To say the least, I have been feeling very down since I got here…it’s hard to look at these homes and communities completely destroyed and not feel that tug on your heart. It’s even harder knowing that after this summer, July 24th I will be no longer sleeping in icky and not lovely conditions; rather, I’ll be back in my big comfy bed, showering in an actual shower with hot water and eating delicious meals. I look at these homes and wonder how can I even connect with these victims when I have all these luxuries while they have lost literally everything, more than items, some lots their own family members or friends. Well, I think I spoke a little too loud on that prayer and God heard me a little to clear.

Last Friday night I was cleaning the girl’s hall where we were staying while everyone was heading to dinner, the sky had been a little funky looking and the air felt different but as all the locals’ say- that’s normal. So, I didn’t think anything of it . Then, my phone started going CRAZY with alerts that we need to take shelter because there’s a tornado coming. So, I ran to get everyone and while that was happening the other staff gathered the priest and we all went into the 10X6 (if that) cellar/basement. Now first of all, there were 60 people that had to fit in that area, with no air, no showers that day from working (aka BAD ODOR) and just wait out the storm. Well, we were only in there for about 30 minutes and the sky started to turn back to normal, the winds slowed down and just in general seemed better. So, we went back into the dining hall to finish dinner. Well quickly after that had happened the youth minister calmly told us to walk quickly back into the cellar. The kids, of course, ran frantically and we all stacked in the cellar like a bunch of nervous nellies. I had my phone, the only staff who did and texted mom and dad. They had turned on the TV and were giving me a play by play updates on how the weather was because this church didn’t have cable or TV. As I was being told what was going on via text messages, the whole staff had to keep a calm , cool and collected attitude because we had 45 teenagers staring at us in pure fear. So, I just kept saying that God wouldn’t bring us here to destroy us…I’m not sure if I was telling them that to calm them down or if I was trying to convince myself . I was scared, really scared. The worst part about it is that I could hear the wind whipping outside and the thunder and hear the crackle of lightening. But in the midst of the madness…the kids sang praises to God, prayed the rosary and stayed even keel. What amazing faith these kids have not only in the God of the universe but faith that us adults would protect them; which we were. But with natural disasters there is only so much you can do.  It’s funny it’s like I knew God wouldn’t destroy us- His team, His missionaries, His partners to help in this cleanup, but I was fearful for what we would walk out into after this mess was over. I was terrified to hear that we had made it through this madness yet people lost their lives. Even while we waited out this mess, the priest told us to pray for the souls of those who will die tonight.  

So, I prayed, I stood their quiet not wanting to start crying in front of the kids, bottling up all emotion so that the kids felt safe even when we weren’t really safe; I felt like a mom. You pray for your children to be safe and have no harm done to them but you pray that God’s will be done. You keep an even temper and don’t show how scared you are so that the kids know that if mom is ok and is staying calm, then everything will be fine (ironic that I felt this way because since day 1 the CMT staff has called me either Kay or Momma Kay).  Then the lights and all electricity stopped working. I was thinking to myself, come on God pull through here… we are trying to heal this community and give them YOU and You are really going to do this to us?

 I’m sure he sat up there laughing and saying, girl you got yourself into this, this is what you asked for. Which I did. I asked how can I connect with these victims when I have never experienced that type of fear before. His voice was so clear during this experience, telling me,  Ask and you shall receive. You want to feel what these victims felt, my daughter? Ok, I’ll send 11 tornados and surround you from the North, South, East and West. I will lock you in a dark cellar that starts to flood with 60 other people and put you completely out of control. I will give you the biggest fear you will ever experience so that when you talk to the victims tomorrow, you will have that compassion and understanding. I will give more than you asked for because I will give you a dent of the fear these victims experienced but I won’t touch you. No tornado will drop onto Holy Angels Catholic Church. You are mine and you are here for greatness. You are here to serve Me and My children. I didn’t bring you here to destroy you…listen to your advice, my daughter.  

OK, I get the picture. I wanted this to just be over. After an hour and a half, about 2 inches of water flooding where we were standing and a whole lot of prayers, Fr.Michael said the storm was over and we all deserved ice cream. So, we went back inside and had some ice cream to celebrate and let go of some of our tornado jitters. That night the storm continued, and flash flooding warnings came all night on my phone. So, needless to say I was awake the whole night; mainly because I felt responsible for the 25 girls sleeping in the next room. But, regardless we were safe, our building wasn’t damaged, only the ground was covered in debris and some down trees. God listened to our prayers and followed through, as always. He is in charge and I am seeing more and more that I have no control over this summer or my life. I’m munching on that humble pie right now; and its way better than I expected.

I’ll post up some of the stories we heard from the families and victims during this upcoming week as this blog post is already really long. If you hung in there and read through all of this, I appreciate it! I will be praying for you and your intentions. In the meantime, could you please pray for the following people? Here is a list of all the victims and homeless people I have met this past week and a half, they could use some major prayers, hope and love!
Mr. Bell & Family
Joyce & Betty
Young Lee
Amy & Adam
Donna ( her kids, Marcus, Jessica , Amy & Angela)
Sandra (her kids, Cadence, Amanda, Amber, Robert)
Sammantha ( she goes by "Rainbow...I'm sure God will know who your praying for)

In His love,
K  xoxo


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