Local church member helps with Oklahoma relief efforts

by | Jul 1, 2013 | Not In USe

By Laurie Lineberry, Trinity United Methodist Church

An Oklahoma home designated for demolition after a tornado hit the area, destroying everything in its path.

An Oklahoma home designated for demolition after a tornado hit the area, destroying everything in its path.

Ms. Laurie Lineberry, a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Yuma, and trained Early Responder, joined a California-Pacific Conference team on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 for ten days to participate in relief efforts sponsored by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Paying their own expenses so that every penny donated to UMCOR goes to aiding those impacted by a disaster, the team traveled to Oklahoma to assist families in recovery after the tornados ravaged this area. The team worked with individual families in assessing their particular circumstances and helped them with clean-up efforts as well as providing friendship and compassion in the midst of the destruction.

The following are two daily blogs from Ms. Lineberry while in Oklahoma.

Day 2:

I thought we would be going back to the first jobsite, but the site was checked out and accepted. We received a second site to clean up debris. This one was in the middle of the tornado’s wrath. The house had been removed and we needed to clear off/out remaining debris. This site was surrounded by total destruction. We thought we would be getting assignments of homes that could be made livable again. Not true so far. This site had a lot of “tornado debris.” Mud mixed with anything and everything the tornado picked up along the way. Lots of glass shards, small household items, toys, bricks embedded in the now-dry ground that had to be dug out with shovels and cats paws (like a crow bar).

From this site we could see east and west along the tornado path. There were a few tree trunks and smashed vehicles that had landed where the tornado threw them, but not much else except unidentifiable debris. A couple of the team members took pictures, and I have a few on my phone. I will get copies of all their photos to share.

At this site, we had police officers stop several times to check who we were to ensure that we were supposed to be there.

Interestingly, they were ticketing all the “abandoned” vehicles strewn across the landscape so they could tow them. Most didn’t have license plates on them anymore. I’m not even sure the owners knew where their cars were. These cars and trucks were mangled, twisted, and bent in half. They looked like they came from a junk yard.

Day 3:

We finished cleaning our second property yesterday and today received a lot with a two-story house totaled by the tornado. We need to take it all down to the foundation. When we got there we discovered that the owners hadn’t pulled their belongings out. So we started bringing out their things. Two more teams of people joined us. They were Methodists from Broken Arrow and Lutherans from Phoenix. We ended up with an additional 20 people to help us move all the furniture out. Woohoo!

Again we had random people driving by offering us cold water, lunches. It has been humbling to hear their stories. Many of them had lost their own homes in this tornado and they were out to thank us for coming to help! They lost everything and they were there to thank us.

A truck of four men handing out ice water told us a story about the prior week when they were handing out water. They drove down a street and found a group of Christians at one house working, a group of Muslims working at the next house, and a group of Jews working at a third house. Some hours later, they drove by again with more water and discovered all three groups working together on one house. “Now that’s something you won’t see on the news” one of them said. They thanked us for coming and helping and drove on.

Editor’s Note: Ms. Laurie Lineberry is available for speaking engagements. To learn more about the relief efforts in Oklahoma and hear more about Ms. Lineberry’s experience, contact Trinity United Methodist Church attrinityoffice@roadrunner.com .

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