Faith & Worship: Blowing into action

Published 3:32 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2017

“God brings up rain clouds from the ends of the earth; he sends out lightning with the rain, and brings the winds out of his storehouse.” (Psalm 135:6)

A couple of weeks ago, Tryon was visited by a tornado on a Sunday evening. Quite frankly, the whole day had been miserable with rain storms from one of the hurricanes. As I looked outside at about 4:30 p.m. that Sunday evening, I saw more and more rain coming down from the heavens, but the weatherman on CBS said that the tornados were down south around Laurens and Newberry.

Well, I thought to myself, if the tornados aren’t anywhere around here, maybe we should jump in the car, head over to Waffle House in Columbus, and get breakfast for dinner. I passed this suggestion on to my wife and daughter, and they both went along with my idea. At 5 p.m. we all jumped in the car and headed over to the Waffle House.

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We sat at the counter with our backs to the windows. My daughter likes to talk to everyone at the Waffle House, especially the short order cooks. We cranked up the jukebox, I suggested Kris Kristofferson, but she told me that was stupid and that everyone in the Waffle House would surely want to listen to Taylor Swift. She programed the jukebox with five Taylor Swift hits, and we went back to peppering the cook with questions about everything he had ever done or thought in his life. He must have thought we worked for the FBI or CIA, but he played the part of a willing conversationalist.

I asked him how he could cook five different orders at once while having three separate conversations at the same time. He said that it really wasn’t that difficult. He had been cooking for so long that it was just second nature cooking all the stuff on the grill and that the waitresses were always yelling at him from every direction, so he learned how to listen to three or four persons at one time. My daughter told him it was amazing and that not even a genie could do his job.

After finishing our dinner, we hopped back in the car and headed back to Tryon. My wife looked at our phones and saw that a whole bunch of people had texted us, “Are you okay?” We didn’t know why people would be texting us, “Are you okay?” She asked me if we should respond to all of these texts. I said that it would probably be better if we responded when we got back home.

As we were driving back home on 108, we started to notice trees that were blown down onto the road. We began to hear sirens all over the place, and the lights were out in downtown Tryon. Wow, we thought, that’s a lot of damage for a storm in less than an hour.

As we turned onto Melrose Avenue, the scene became even more surreal. Huge oak trees had been pulled out of the ground and were lying across the street, next to the street, and even on top of houses. As we pulled up to our driveway at Holy Cross Episcopal Church, we realized that a huge tree was lying across our driveway, so we drove slowly past the church until we noticed that the tree in the corner of our front lawn had been pushed over across the Congregational driveway and Melrose Avenue. The rain was pouring down in buckets, but the whole of Melrose Avenue looked like a scene from a movie. Our normal street was now ground zero for storm induced chaos. I thought, “How are we going to put all of this back together? How long are we going to be stuck here without electricity or services of any kind?”

Little did I realize that moments after those thoughts went through my head people would begin to show up on my front porch. People I knew and people that I didn’t know began to ask if we were okay, and they wanted to know how they could help. I didn’t really have any idea how they could help, but the people in the neighborhood wanted to know how they could help their neighbors.

Over the next three days, I saw people helping one another get their lives back to normal. I knew that that wouldn’t help the people with their damaged cars or roofs, but the desire to help people just poured out of people. Yes, the winds of the tornado were mighty, but the desire to help peoples’ neighbors was even stronger.

The true miracle was the way a tornado blew people into action all throughout Tryon and the surrounding areas. As I talked with my good friend Crys Armbrust a few days after the tornado, he said, “One thing we can certainly say, the little town of Tryon has moxie.”

“Amen to that!” I said.