Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blown Away by Love

… love builds up. 1 Cor 8:1

What the National Weather Service called the “Hackleburg Tornado” traveled 132 miles, with winds surpassing 210 mph, leaving a nonstop scar in the earth from Hackleburg to Huntsville. Of a dozen deadly twisters across Alabama on April 27, 2011, this one alone was given the strongest rating of EF-5. This one tornado is thought to have claimed 70 lives, by far the deadliest single twister in state history. At least 3,838 businesses in Alabama applied for federal assistance because of storm damage; another 37 applied due to loss of business. At least 16,345 homeowners across Alabama registered with FEMA.

Such a tragedy reminded members of the Bellevue Church of Christ in Nashville of the devastating floods that had struck their own community almost a year earlier. Over 13 inches of rain fell there May 1-2, 2010. As a result, more than forty families in the congregation lost their homes. However, even a flood is no match for the love of God.

In order to communicate that love, two creative members at Bellevue had a brilliant idea. With others they designed, built and painted small houses, like birdhouses, one for each displaced family. Various members then repeatedly stuffed the houses with notes of love and encouragement. The houses were placed in the foyer of the church building, where the flood victims would eagerly check them at every service. People loved the experience, whether they were on the giving end or on the receiving end. One sister says, “The houses were an overwhelming hit -- both with our members who placed notes in them, and with the victims who would go to their ‘houses’ as soon as they entered our lobby.”

So, when the Bellevue folks heard about the tornado, they knew what to do! They built 17 more houses, one for each Hackleburg church family whose home was destroyed. They painted each one by hand and placed the family’s name on the outside. They filled the little houses with Scripture, expressions of faith, and words of loving support. They had never met these victims, but they knew something of their pain. They knew how to comfort.

Then on July 17 a church busload of Bellevue members traveled several hours roundtrip to worship with the saints in Hackleburg. Mike Lane, the local preacher, spoke about the power of God’s love. After the service a Bellevue elder stood and explained why they had done what they did. Then the name of each homeless family was called, and the house built for that family was handed to them, while others watched. Tears were shed. Hugs were shared. Friendships were formed. All because love built and filled those houses.

These Bellevue friends had invited Tanya and me to meet them along the way and ride to and from Hackleburg. We’re so glad we did. God’s love in action touched our hearts, boosted our faith, and changed our lives. We were blown away … by love.
Cory Collins

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