Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Natural Disasters

David and I live in southwest Missouri, an area that used to be famous because of Branson. Now Joplin is making headlines, and our entire region is consumed with helping Joplin recover from the devastation of last Sunday night's tornado.

Sunday night at 5:25 we were in the church auditorium hearing yet another of my husband's great sermons. My niece who lives in EL SALVADOR sent a text message to my brother that a tornado was on its way and we should take cover. Right after the services ended, my brother (who had then checked out the situation on his Iphone) announced that we should all head for the basement. About 25 church members and neighborhood residents spent the rest of the evening in the church basement. We followed the tornado news on laptops and Iphones, hardly able to believe the terrible reports. Of course, we soon found out that the initial reports couldn't begin to describe the incredible damage.

Our community of Mt. Vernon is 45 miles west of Joplin, and we were spared. David and my brother have been to Joplin and will be going again tomorrow to help with relief efforts. Everyone here is shocked by the horrible sights and reports of what happened in Joplin. The community and the nation are mobilizing all kinds of resources to respond and help those who lost everything in a few minutes of terror.

I've been reflecting on storms, disasters, and my experience of living in Africa. There are no earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes in Zambia. About the only natural disaster is drought, and it is a slow, insidious danger--nothing like the apocalyptic destruction of a tornado. The other slow, insidious killer in Zambia is AIDS. As horrible as the Joplin tornado is, AIDS may be just as destructive--or more so. Every family we knew at Namwianga had been touched by the AIDS epidemic in one way or another. A slogan that is often repeated in AIDS awareness campaigns is "We are not all infected, but we are all affected." Parents die, leaving helpless orphans to be raised by relatives who are already overburdened with their own poverty and need. Orphans with no family to care for them end up at orphanages like the Havens--wonderful places for children who must be there, but nothing like the safety and security of a true home. Workers in their prime are cut down by the dreaded disease, robbing the country of needed talent and skills. Weakened immune systems cause employees to miss days and days of work, hampering the efficiency of a nation already struggling for economic survival.

I weep at the photos of Joplin's flattened neighborhoods and think of the many lives destroyed by the tornado. And I grieve for the lives destroyed by the quieter and equally powerful pandemic called AIDS. May God help us to be just as shocked, touched, and motivated to help those whose lives are destroyed in years of suffering as we are by those who lose everything in an instant. May God help us all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister Friend, Praise GOD for your saftey. 12 miles east of our house, where we attend worship a tornado took 5 of our brothers and sisters homes. I Thank God that they are all safe and that you are as well. We have seen the devastation on TV and we are Blessed that our weathermen and women told us an entire day ahead that this was gonna be bad and to ger prepare ahead of time. I got a ton of stuff ready for cowboy to take down into the basement if we needed to go. I have been wondering about you. I miss Africa through your eyes and heart. I love you, cj