Sunday, May 8, 2011

You have 17 volunteers? No, 70!

Yesterday was a day I'm sure many from our church will not forget. We were allowed the opportunity to help in part of the clean up in Pratt City, one of the worst hit areas in Birmingham. Our church had done a little immediately after the tornado rampage on 4/27 that left so much destruction across a large swath of the Alabama landscape, but this was the first big organized attempt at getting deep into the community.

We had finally been able to get a bit organized and in touch with some relief groups in order to be able to bring a group of willing volunteers into an area in dire need. We didn't want to be one of those groups just showing up and getting in the way. The guys carrying big guns don't seem to care too much for that these days! I just happened to be the lay person asked to be an organizer for this Saturday trip with one of our youth leaders. When we got to the staging area in Pratt City I found the volunteer sign in location and began the process of getting our group signed in. It was chaotic to say the least but everyone was trying to be patient and helpful. Once they understood I had a large group out front they finally just gave me the clip board and asked me to get everyone's name down. I had originally thought we had about 40 people maybe when we lef the church parking lot. After we got everyone to put their information down, I counted 72 people that had caravanned out to help! The ladies attempting to get people signed in about fell out of their chairs when I brought the 2 pages of names back. One of them finally looked at me and exclaimed, "Praise Jesus!"

One of the ministers directing volunteers to head out (usually in groups of 4 or 5) was finally notified I had our group out front and ready. He kept thinking they were saying we had 17 volunteers ready to go. I kept saying, no we have 70. After restating this at least twice, he finally said, "oh crap". Then he asked, "do you have chainsaws?" Once I said yes, we have 4 or 5, his face lit up and said, "follow me"! We then regrouped our 70 folks with chainsaws and tools in hand, and he led us on a car caravan past the police and national guard barricades to the farthest part of the residential area that had not yet been cleared of trees and said "GO"!

We met some wonderfully nice families who expressed heart felt appreciation for the assistance. It was a bit overwhelming at first to see such destruction. We learned that whatever can get cut and hauled to the street will be removed within the next 30 days. After this, anything left will be up to the individuals to deal with. So we worked as diligently as we could with all of the leg work we had to get as much as we could to the street for these people. We got to hear their stories, let them talk, hug on them, and pray with them. It was a good day. Below are some images (click on each for larger versions) from what I have started to call the Covenant Presbyterian axe men.

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