Report from Oklahoma Mission Trip

Imagine, if you will, a tornado two miles wide with winds of 300 miles per hour bearing down on you.  It is carrying torrential rains and softball size hail.   And you have no place to hide.   What would you do?   Well that was the tragic nightmare of May, 2013 in Central Oklahoma.  The storms killed 24 people, injured hundreds more and caused billions of dollars in property damage.  Yet, the courageous people of the area endured and are on the road to recovery.

El Reno Tornado

El Reno Tornado

Lost homes

Lost homes

We were pleased to provide a mission team in April, 2014 to help with the recovery.  Our team of twelve was composed of participants from three Tri-Valley churches.  We worked a week in El Reno, Oklahoma, a thriving farming community near Oklahoma City.   We marveled at the resolve to recovery and rebuild.  We enjoyed the warm hearted hospitality of our host church, the recovery organization and the community we served.

Assembling A Wall

Assembling A Wall

Our main focus for the week was Donna’s home.  A tree had fallen through her modest, two bedroom home.  Our goal was to rebuild the second bedroom.  Emotionally spent from the trauma in her life, Donna is essentially disabled from when her bipolar husband tried to kill her and from a car accident after the storm.  Gracious and grateful in all respects, Donna was so appreciative of our help.

Adding the Roof

Adding the Roof

Aside from the work, what else?  Well, we laughed a lot at stories told.  We shared meaningful devotional moments in our evening group time.  We made many new friends at our host church in Yukon.  We enjoyed the BBQ!   We were especially happy to give one of the prayer quilts to Donna.  She was a quilter at one time and lost all of hers in the storm.  These beautiful quilts are handmade by women at church.

Giving the Quilt

Giving the Quilt

We got much of the rebuild done and the next team or two will finish it off.  As Donna said in her thank you note – “I see the glow of the Lord in each of you.  You have been such a blessing to my family.  You have given me hope once again.  I believe in you.  Keep up God’s work!”

Message We Left

Message We Left

Well, that about sums it up, living our faith matters in this world.

Sincerely, the Oklahoma Mission Team

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Detailed Trip Report

Mission to El Reno, OK, for Tornado Recovery

The Tri-Valley Mission Team, had a very fulfilling week working in El Reno, Oklahoma, in early April, 2014.  The team of 12 included Asbury UMC (team leaders Steve Elliott and Roger Everett, and Larry Suter), Centerpointe Presbyterian (Diana and Howard Mendenhall and Jack Ogden), and Lynnewood UMC (Mary and Bill Behrendt, Cynthia DeLand, and Mary Ellen and Doug Huey), and everyone’s favorite camp director Jeff Clark from Camp Lodestar in the Sierra-Nevada’s.

The First UMC of Yukon, OK, home of Garth Brooks, Bad Brad’s BBQ, and very close to where Steve grew up, was our home for the week.  They even supplied us with much needed tools when the Volunteer Center’s supplies ran short.  After spending Sunday attending the morning service at our host church and the afternoon at the Western Heritage Museum and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, we were ready for work.

Our entire team was assigned to rebuild a 24’x12’ add-on bedroom to a very small one-bedroom, one-bath house.  The previous room addition had been demolished when a tree fell on it in the wake of the May 31, 2013, El Reno tornado.

This tornado was the most massive tornado ever recorded anywhere, with a devastating width of 2.6 miles and winds of over 300 MPH!  Unlike the Moore tornado of two weeks prior, the El Reno tornado ran mostly through rural land.  However, it brought high winds and it dumped softball size hail and torrential rains in the town of El Reno.

We arrived to find a single wall that had been framed, and we immediately set to framing and standing up all 4 walls.  By the end of Day 2, floor joists were in, subflooring was being nailed down, and siding was being added.  We also started on the existing roof, removing old shingles to clear out a place where the new roof would attach at an angle to the existing roof.

Mid-week was spent finishing the subflooring and siding, installing a Tyveck waterproof wrap on the outer walls, and installing roof rafters.

By the time we finished on Friday, the windows and the back door were installed. The roof had been sheeted and covered with tar paper!  The new room was rain-worthy, until the next crew comes in to finish the walls and roof.

Donna, the home owner, told her story over and over.  She, her son, and her 2 dogs had been caught on the road, running from the tornado, when their car died.  A pickup approached and loaded all of them into his truck and outran the tornado.  When they finally got back to her car, the front and back bumper and roof had been torn off.

When Donna returned home, she found half of her little house crushed by the tree.   She had lost all of the quilts that she had made and accumulated through the years.   She never, ever expected the room to be rebuilt, and was moved to tears every time she came out to see the progress.  She still has a long, rough road ahead, but she said so many times how blessed she was to have had us there to rebuild the room.  We wrote “God Bless You” in part of the foundation that we re-poured.

Thursday, we attended a dinner for all the volunteers.  Over 200 volunteers came. Teams were working in the El Reno, Moore and the Shawnee areas.  The disaster recovery program provides this meal every Thursday for all volunteers working in the area that week.

Friday evening we drove into Oklahoma City, had our celebration dinner, and then walked to the memorial at the site of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.  It is a truly beautiful and moving memorial.  This area of the country has seen so much pain and sorrow.  It affected each and every one of us, and we feel so blessed to have been able to help just a little bit in this sea of need.

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