By Brenda Black
I'm writing my column this morning in route to Joplin for another day of volunteer service. Our family is working in a warehouse sorting donations for distribution. It is mind numbing to take in the devastation and life-altering to be serving any way we can to help so many precious people. I fear my words can't express the depth nor breadth of emotions we're feeling. Don't stop praying or aiding Joplin, my friends. Together we can make a difference and declare that God is among us and at work.
“But I prayed, 'Now strengthen my hands.'” – Nehemiah 6:9b
Mountains of mass destruction lay piled in heaps of what used to be communities, offices, and stores. Among the gnarled rubble also reside the accumulations of life-long memories of thousands of families forever changed from monstrous storms. I've been to Joplin. I've seen it and still cannot believe the gargantuan swath of death and debris. The clean up and reconstruction will take months, if not years. And it will take millions of man hours to rebuild a great city. I believe it will be done by the hands of God-fearing men and women who realize the enormity of the project, but know there is far more at stake than boards and bricks.
When Nehemiah led the Israelite nation in building the Jerusalem wall, he counted the cost and knew what level of commitment it required for completion. He knew for whom he built it. He also knew all too well that his greatest resources were the volunteers who labored day after day and what was needed to keep the work going.
“But out of reverence for God...I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work...Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people. Remember me with favor, O my God, for all I have done for these people.” (Nehemiah 5:15c-19)
Out of reverence for God, our family is devoting some time to the work of the Joplin wall. And let me tell you, the job is so enormous, that our service is a drop in a bucket six miles long and a half mile wide that expands to the depths of thousands of human souls and reaches into heaven. While our contributions of volunteer hours will be sporadic, there are thousands in Joplin daily dealing with the logistics of meeting insurmountable needs. There are layers of details involved with utilizing and mobilizing the masses who show up to help. Traffic controllers need controlled; base camp cooks have to know how many to cook for; managers are needed to organize mass distribution and ministers must be available at a moment's notice. Demolition and construction crews need directions on where to go. And truckers have to have a place to unload. And the work goes on and on and on and local residents are assuming the high calling of orchestrating the massive relief efforts. These are the true wall builders!
We met many of them on Wednesday at College Heights Christian Church. They are hauling goods, sorting donations, distributing food and clothing, water and words of comfort. They are baking cookies for crews and sitting with shocked families who are trying to forget nightmarish horrors while having to deal with overwhelming hardship.
When I can't be hands-on in Joplin, I plan to be holding these faithful saints up in prayer for I am certain their bodies will grow weak and weary and outside forces will tell them it can't be done. Nehemiah faced such opposition and he resolved to “carrying on a great project.” (Neh. 6:3) His enemies tried to frighten the wall builders and taunted them with stinging words: “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” (Neh. 6:8-9a)
But Nehemiah prayed: “Now strengthen my hands.” (Neh. 9b)
The result: The wall was completed! “When all our enemies heard about this and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. “ (Neh. 6:15-16)
And so it shall be with Joplin. As believers pray for Christian brothers forging ahead in love and purpose, the world will watch and know that God-honoring people rebuilt Joplin – brick by brick, board by board and one life at a time through loving, generous, selfless helping hands.