Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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Twister Tales

Aftermath of the Tornado that hit Pryor Creek ...

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The rash of earthquakes and the tornado (or two) Okie-Land had a few weeks ago brought comments from people in other states. “I’d rather deal with an earthquake than a tornado.”

Really? At least, in a tornado if you have warning, there are places you can go where you’re safe.

Of course, we don’t like them.  We’d give all our twisters to a sister state, if she’d take them. (Hey, Kansas? How about you?)

But until Big K steps up to take the killer twirls from us, we’re stuck with them.

Tornadoes and their warnings are dark shadows in most Okies’ memories. One of my first was the night of the circus that the Williams family went to with our fam. You can read about it here.

Another time, the warning siren woke us in the middle of the night. Mom sort of panicked, which gave at least one of my sisters a real fear of storms. Even thunder storms give her the jitters.

(I kind of enjoy them as long as I’m not driving.)

The spring after my middle son was born, we lived in a house about a mile west of C-Town. Because north-east Oklahoma has a high water table, and that makes it hard to have a cellar or basement that doesn’t have a foot or two of water in it, I’ve never owned a hidey-hole. That spring, I was sorry I didn’t have one.

It seems that every week, I got a phone call from one of my sibs, telling me the siren was blowing. The entryway of my house, where the stairway was, had several large windows on both sides. I didn’t want to navigate those stairs with glass crashing all around and a five-year-old as well as an infant in tow, so we’d sleep in the family room, right next to the under-the-stairs closet. (We figured it was the safest place in the house.)

A tornado cut a swath next to highway 412 near C-Town once. It started somewhere to the west of where I live right now, and plowed a path through the trees and houses built around the lake.

One family, who’d all built houses near each other, had a cellar they shared. While the twister damaged their homes, they were snug and safe underground–until a car got rolled on top of their cellar and the gasoline inside it drain into the cellar with them.

They were lucky enough that nothing sparked and set off the fumes.

Just about every house on the block where I live now was damaged or destroyed by that same tornado. When things cleared, my mom and dad loaded up their car with things people might be able to use and drove to the lake to help their neighbors clean up and dig out.

Like the good Samaritan, we learn being able to give is much more blessed than needing to receive, don’t we?

So what do Okies do when a tornado heads our way? Most of us go for cover and prayer. Emphasis on prayer.

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WGT– Miracles in Joplin

Isn’t it a Small Town World? Neighbors reaching out from across the state and from other states to lend a hand in Joplin to those hurting and in need.

Don’t you love hearing about the Small Town attitude in America?

I think I’ve mentioned that I attended Ozark Christian College back in the dark ages. My heart broke as I listened to the news about the devistation of Joplin. A woman I knew at the school was killed in the storm. Several people I knew (and who wouldn’t remember me) including a wonderful professor, had their homes destroyed.

If you’ve paid attention, you’ve seen God’s hand in the recovery time and time again. I wanted to share some of it with you in case you’d missed it.

I’m taking this directly from Discovery Ministries website. I can’t share all of it (I hope I’m not breaking the law by sharing what I am) but I hope you’ll click over and read the entire story.   BTW: CHCC is College Heights Christian Church. DM is Discovery Ministries. I just copied a part from the second half of the account. Please read the entire story if you have time.

The Joplin tornado happened on May 22nd. On the 23rd, seven people from Discovery Ministries drove to Joplin and made a call to find out what was happening.

We thought for a moment and figured we could help right then. In
incident-command training, we had learned that taking notes of what decisions are made the first few hours of a crisis helps in the following hours and days.

Since we teach communication and other principles for effective meetings, we are good note takers. Jeremy and I each took a radio, note pad and pencil. The rest of the DM group prayed and waited with a radio for further instructions. Jeremy quickly followed Jay and I shadowed Randy.

As I recorded what time Randy told which person to do what task, Randy noticed me and asked who I was and what I was doing. I told him my name, that I was with DM and that I was taking notes for him. He gave me a little smile and a nod and then turned to continue making decisions.

There’s a lot more to this story I’m skipping–please find time to read it. I wanted you to see the glory of God’s touch.

The rest of the story of the miracles Jesus worked this week would fill volumes.
I’ll give a summary.

Monday approximately 6:30 p.m., CHCC and DM entered a relationship I will fondly remember forever. I immediately called Colette and
asked her to partner with . . . three guys with lots of experience in incident command – to join in praying specifically for the challenges they knew, better than we, that we faced.

Lisa and Kim, two original recruits from the church, joined the DM team to design the intake, sorting and distribution of donations and training of volunteers to run that system.

We finished at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. That basic system, with numerous improvements made by many people and organizations, continues functioning as I write this report at 9:25 a.m. Saturday morning.

I am still amazed at the number of victims we were able to assist. I know that by Wednesday evening we had distributed food, clothing, and other basic essentials to over 2,000 people, fed over 2,000 meals to volunteers, and had unbelievable opportunities for ministry, including one request for baptism.

My favorite element of the system was the Personal Shopping Assistants (PSA’s). These volunteers met each person at the entrance, introduced themselves, and carried people’s items for them.

They tried to connect with people, asking their stories of survival, praying, laughing, hugging and crying with them. It was amazing how many big hearted and courageous volunteers made the whole system run and how they constantly made the system better.

The Big Questions

How did a church staff that functions on a collaborative-unity model get connected with a small ministry that functions on a collaborative-unity model at just the right time?

How did the right people show up during the week, hundreds of times, just before we realized they were needed? How did those people courageously accept the challenge after briefly considering the magnitude of what they were being asked to do?

Zechariah 4: 6 “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
says the LORD of hosts.” (1995 NASB).

Saying that CHCC, DM or any other person or organization involved, really did great things is somewhat like saying the tools in the toolbox built a house. Jesus is the Master Carpenter.

If you have a moment, please, please, please go to Discovery Ministries and read the entire account. I promise you’ll be blessed.

Praying for Joplin.


Prayers for Joplin

I’ve spent a lot of time this week, crying and praying for the people who lost homes and loved ones in Joplin. And later in the week, crying and praying over the hurting people near Piedmont, Oklahoma.

Like my friend, Marilyn, said the other day, I’ve never seen a tornado because I’m always hiding when one gets close. As an Okie, though, I’ve witnessed the devastation one of those monsters can do.

A looooong time ago, I went to Ozark Christian College (then it was Ozark Bible College) in Joplin. And I loved it. I enjoyed school, loved the town (much bigger than C-Town but still not the Big City) and the surrounding area.

Oronogo–a nearby town–had a strip pit that years earlier had filled with water. I loved visiting that swimming hole, jumping off the cliffs and swimming into the caves.

My second (and last) year at Ozark, Mom came in May with a group of women from our church to the Women’s Clinic at Ozark and brought Sister Amy, who was still a tyke.

The entire C-Town crew and my friend, Bomber, went out to lunch on lunch on Range Line. On our way back, we took a different street than the normal jaunt down 7th Street. We were heading back to the college for classes and afternoon sessions.

I dropped Mom off at one of the Mission Building and Amy, Bomber and I went back to my dorm. Just as we pulled up in front, the tornado siren went off.

I was taught by my parents to respect those warnings, so I threw Amy into the dorm’s bottom floor with Bomber and zoomed back to the classroom building to get Mom.

I stampeded into the classroom, ready to scream over the roar of panicked women, but all I heard was the even tones of the lecturing professor. As I stormed in, the entire room turned and looked at me. (Kinda made me feel like I’d shown up at the Royal Wedding dressed for Sadie Hawkins day.)

But that siren was still echoing in my head and my heart was pounding out of control, so I shouted, “Tornado. We have to go!”

The professor, a Joplin resident for many years, shook his head.”That siren gets hit by lightning all the time and gives false warnings. Don’t worry about it.”

I was ready to argue (you know how it is when you have that gut feeling) but my wise mother stood up. “I’ll go with her.”

We rushed back to the dorm, sat with the others in the hallway of the bottom floor, told stories and sang upbeat songs.

Cheer up, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about. Nothing to make you feel afraid. Nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails so why not trust Him and shout! You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.

There was a tornado that day that went right up 7th Street–the street we hadn’t taken–the main street that went between Main and Range Line. It damaged 40 blocks and did $7,000,000 in damage. (A lot of money back then.)

But that’s nothing compared to the total devastation the EF5 tornado caused this year.

One story touched my heart and still brings me to tears today. It’s about a young man named Malachi Murdoch. He’s a recent high school graduate and enrolled at Ozark this fall.

Read about him here.

I hope you’ll join with me in prayer for Malachi, his family and all the residents of Joplin.