JACKSON, Tenn. – July 16, 2013 – Ten Union University alumni, faculty and staff recently spent a week helping with cleanup efforts in Moore, Okla., after a deadly tornado hit the community earlier this spring.
The Union volunteers in late June worked with Samaritan’s Purse, mainly doing final cleanup work before a property was turned over to its owners.
“At the core, as Christians, when you see people hurting and struggling and experiencing very intense hopelessness, we have a supernatural, inborn impulse to go and help,” said Lee Wilson, Union’s director of discipleship, who led the team. “We at Union have a special connection with people who are feeling the effects of devastation coming from a tornado. We were eager to go and help because we’ve been helped.”
Wilson referenced the Feb. 5, 2008, tornado that hit Union’s campus, causing about $40 million in damage. Generous support from volunteers and donors helped the university to recover quickly from the disaster.
“Many members of our team had first-hand experience with the tornado aftermath at Union in 2008, and serving alongside them was especially meaningful,” said Sarah Belcher, Union’s graphic design specialist, who served on the team. “Seeing the vastness of the damage in and around Moore was incredibly sobering. But seeing the numerous volunteers from all over the United States helping in the community each day brought a sense of hope.”
The Union team stayed at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla. OBU provided free housing and generous hospitality for the duration of the stay, Wilson said.
Each morning the team drove to Moore to get its assignment for the day. Many of the properties where the team worked were located just a couple of blocks from Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children were killed in the tornado.
Though Wilson said the Union team members didn’t meet many of the homeowners, they did encounter a few, telling them about the tornado that hit Union and encouraging them that God intervenes and gives grace to overcome.
When Samaritan’s Purse volunteers finished at a specific house, they left a Bible for the owner that each team member had signed. Included with the Bible was a brief note telling Union’s story and why the volunteers had come.
“We wanted to be a part of giving grace for the day,” Wilson said.