Robert Green, Fellowship of Christian Athletes chaplain, said Friday evening during Recovery 2012 in the Lee University Conn Center that storms might rise up at anytime. There are all kinds of storms and sometimes people cannot see what God is trying to do through the storm.
“Storms in our lives are when He gets the greatest glory and we get the greatest good,” he said.
Larry Cockerham, president of Cleveland Net, welcomed the small audience to an evening planned as a time to remember crises and the losses experienced in Bradley County. The 90-minute program was also a time to celebrate the blessings of a community that gives so freely of love, time, resources and energy.
It was a moment, on the anniversary of the storms of April 27, 2011, to grieve with those still mourning their losses and a call to continue reaching out to those still facing needs. And, it was an event to give God praise and thanksgiving for His faithfulness for carrying the community through times of adversity.
Cockerham, pastor of Living Word Church, said for people who have Jesus Christ in their lives, there is always time to rejoice.
“We also come here to celebrate with those in our community who have worked so hard and served so much, not just since that day, because they serve all the time. They are the men and women of our community who lay down their lives to serve the people of this county because we know by the Scriptures they are serving our Lord Jesus Christ as they serve his people,” he said.
Salvation Army Sgt. Ruthie Forgey said not all of the walls that came down 365 days ago were tragic. “Walls of socioeconomics, denominational, political and religious differences crumbled as neighbors reached out to help neighbors and strangers became forever friends.
“The truest tragedy, as we rebuild our community, would be to rebuild the walls that cause separation and dissension. We saw our community shine in its darkest hour, shine its very brightest. Through the rubble of broken homes, shattered lives and unbelievable devastation arose that indelible spirit of a community that proclaimed, ‘Indeed, we belong to Jesus,’” she said.
Not only did the natural landscape change a year ago, but so did the faith landscape.
Rosie Miller lost a neighbor and her home mobile home on Blue Springs Road in the storm. But since then, the Long-Term Recovery Organization stepped in and built her a new home. It is the first frame house she has ever had. She said people gave and kept on giving and now she has a better place than she’s ever had before.
“I feel so bad for the people who lost loved ones in the tornado and I’m so thankful I didn’t, that God spared my family,” she said.
The best things that happened to her through the ordeal was Long-Term Recovery Organization and Men and Women of Action who took the lead in building her new home on Thurman Lane, and she has grown closer to God.
“My relationship with God has grown stronger throughout this. I have learned to trust in Him more and more and in his love and knowledge that he will do what he says he will do,” she said.
Others who participated in the program by offering prayers were Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, Bishop Winston Reid, Cleveland City Fire Steve Haun, Bradley Baptist Association President Randy Bonner, United Way of Bradley County President/CEO Matt Ryerson, Rev. Debbie Stokes, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, and the Lee University Campus Choir.
Mount Olive Ministries Pastor Gary Sears prefaced the prayer of thanksgiving with a story about an 8-year-old boy who was not in attendance but on a ballfield, playing third base.
He told of another 8-year-old boy, who in 1957, survived a tornado.
“He doesn’t forget the sound of the strong wind or the root cellar underneath the house. The first thing he saw after coming out the cellar was that the old apple tree he enjoyed playing in was now gone,” he said. “This afternoon at 4 o’clock, the Long-Term Recovery Organization and everyone else was on the front porch of a home being dedicated for the Yarber family. Tears were shed by the father, mother and two brothers as they remembered and reflected.
“But what was intriguing to me was an 8-year-old boy who plays third base on the same team as my grandson and the only thing he could think about was playing ball tonight. While our minds reflect on storms, this child — after a year of challenges and changes — sees the true thing to be thankful for, that life is going on and for him has turned back into a routine.
“We who are older sometimes have more difficulty in erasing the issues of life. So let’s be thankful for an 8-year-old boy whose mind is a thousand miles away and is excited about playing ball.”