By: Molly Livingstone
LITTLE AXE, Okla. – Dressed in a long-sleeved gray shirt ornamented with a small orange OSU emblem, Zach Rowell, stood in the bed of his white truck as the sweltering summer sun beat down relentlessly. Carefully, he pushed a large, maroon corduroy recliner to the back of the bed, securing it with yellow bungee cords.
Rowell traveled June 4 to Little Axe with a youth group of about 25 people from University Heights Baptist Church in Stillwater to help with tornado relief efforts. The group does a service project each Tuesday and chose to help the tornado-ravaged communities. He ended up being an answer to prayer.
“You know that there is a sense of camaraderie,” Rowell said. “If there is a need, I’ll help them. I’d hope they would do the same if I was in need.”
This seemingly small detail turned out to be an answered prayer for a disabled woman who lost her home to the tornado in Moore, Okla. on May 20. Her home was one of the estimated 16,000 in the 17-mile path of the tornado that destroyed communities, killed 24 people and demolished a local elementary school.
After losing her home, the Federal Emergency Management Agency deemed her to be worthy of needing a reclining chair that would help her stand up, but they needed other things to fall into place before she could receive it.
“I was standing in the parking lot of [First Baptist Church in] Norman greeting the Second Baptist Church of Little Rock work crew when a FEMA lady at a meeting in a neighboring church crossed the parking lot to inquire what we were up to,” said Oklahoma Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Disaster Response Coordinator Jill Hatcher. “She took my information and a couple of days later she e-mailed me with the chair request.”
Hatcher is a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and First Baptist Church Norman, which have been integral in the organization of the disaster relief efforts. First Baptist Church is housing volunteers in its Family Life Center, which is equip with shower and kitchen facilities. The volunteers are then sent out to various work sites.
Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery is partnering with CBF Oklahoma to send groups to serve in Oklahoma.
“It’s very important for people to put their feet to their faith and be the hands of feet of Jesus,” said Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery Specialist Marla Bearden. “[It’s important to] show the love of Jesus to the people affected.”
Bearden encourages potential volunteers to know every detail matters, no matter how small it may seem.
“Every job we give our volunteers is important,” Marla Bearden Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery Coordinator said. “ We are trying to help the disaster victims go back to the way they were before. The task you are assigned helps them come full circle.”
The chair was one small way to help that happen. It was donated but needed to be picked up in Stillwater. Hatcher asked the youth group from Stillwater if they would bring it. That’s when Rowell volunteered.
“We were struggling to find anyone from Norman who could deliver the chair,” Hatcher said. “I had jokingly said … that if we couldn’t find anyone, maybe Stillwater could help. That’s exactly what happened.”
Hatcher said that this experience was evidence of how God cares for his children.
“I felt amazed that somehow multiple dots were connected to help someone with something you might mistake as a small thing,” Hatcher said. “God knew the need, met the need and found transportation. That chair represents for me the reality that we are the conduits by which God is taking care of his children from the small to the big things.”
For more information about opportunities to serve in Oklahoma through Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery, visit www.texasbaptists.org/disaster