God Leads His Soldiers Where Needed
Little Axe, OK - (May 30, 2013) Major Marion Durham, an Emotional & Spiritual Care Specialist with The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services team responding to the May Oklahoma tornadoes, shared this account of her work in Little Axe, Oklahoma.
On our third day in Oklahoma, in the lobby of our Oklahoma City hotel, I met a thin woman with a small white dog; she asked if we were there to help tornado victims. When I said, “yes,” she began expressing frustration about how the rural communities of Pecan Valley and Little Axe, which had been hit with tornadoes Sunday, were now forgotten since the city of Moore had been destroyed on Monday. She was angry, stressed, and weary. I invited her outside, and we sat on the curb while she told me her story.
Debbie, her husband Pat, and their little dog Cricket, who lived on Crown Point Road, survived the storm by retreating to their shelter--along with 10 neighbors, three more dogs, and a cat.
Now, days later, she was hurting physically; despite the fact that she has rods in her back and severe nerve damage in her feet, she’d been searching the dirt and debris for her possessions. She was also hurting emotionally; no volunteers had been on her street yet to help survivors like her.
After listening to and praying with the Blands, I promised them I would do what I could to visit their community that day. After our morning Emotional and Spiritual Care Team meeting, we entered her address into our GPS and were dismayed that the only Crown Point that came up was in Texas! We decided to try the general area that she pointed us to, although it was more than 20 miles outside of Oklahoma City.
At first we found very little damage, though we toured lots of country roads. Then suddenly we saw downed trees--large trees that had been snapped like twigs. We had no idea where Crown Point Road might be, but this area was in total confusion and despair.
We reached the top of a hill and saw that the entire valley below was full of destroyed homes. We began walking the road, helping the people we found, some of whom were only now seeing their homes again--four days later--after being released from the hospital. The men on my team carried a cooler between them, and we passed out Gatorade and snacks while offering hugs, prayers, and listening ears.
We got back into our vehicles and rounded a bend in the road and we had finally Crown Point Road! We met the Blands’ neighbors, who had been in the shelter with them. They showed us the bare foundation of their home and pointed out the Blands’ as well. Just then Pat and Debbie pulled into their driveway. As Pat got out of his truck, his jaw dropped when he saw me. I reminded him of my promise to try to find his home and community. "You did more than try!,” he declared. He hugged me tight and pointed me to Debbie, at the corner, barely standing with her cane, searching again through debris for personal photos and mementos. She was touched that we had found them. We hugged and prayed again.
Since first meeting the Blands, we have returned to the Pecan Valley Community every day to visit with many lovely people. Jody, who was sucked out of her house, slammed into her neighbor's Jeep so hard that she had broken bones and bleeding on the brain. Larry and Shalynn, who were underinsured and now homeless. Shalynn kept yelling for her son to stop playing in the dirt in the only pair of shoes he now owned. She cried as I held her and prayed for the brokenness to be restored not only on the outside, but also on the inside. CJ and Brittany, a young couple just starting out, lost everything. Catherine and Robert, an elderly couple who watched the storm from their porch until it turned their way; they barely made it inside before the tornado stole rooms, porches, and the roof from their home.
We know it wasn't just a chance encounter with Debbie Bland in a hotel lobby that led us to Pecan Valley; it was the Holy Spirit, who showed us the way and the need on Crown Point Road and surrounding neighborhoods.
We have seen Pat and Debbie several times since then. We've rejoiced that prayers are being answered for insurance claims, physical healing, and wisdom for how to begin again. They have decided to move East, maybe to Maryland.
Tonight I gave them a small dog carrier that had been donated to The Salvation Army. I told Debbie that she's looking better, getting the color back in her cheeks. She seemed less stressed as she took the travel bag for her dog.
You see, even Cricket needed a new home--and the Lord provided that, too.