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Editor’s Note: Jacob Moorman is a member of River’s Edge Ministries, which regularly hosts and leads mission work locally in Maryland, through City Mission, and annually in other states through Cross Country Mission (CCM).

I am certainly no theologian, so I am merely sharing my reflections from our most recent venture into the mission field. I had the privilege of serving on a CCM trip this year after an F3 tornado left a miles long path of destruction through Clarksville, Tennessee, just a few weeks before Christmas 2023.

Friends from different denominations and different states joined us on the mission to Clarksville. And many people prayed for us from home. Saint Matthew’s Lutheran, a new mission partner from the Baltimore area, provided us with around 80 quilts which we were able to hand out to families. This often opened the door for more intentional conversation and prayer. Mission cannot be done without the support, prayer, and provision of the whole church. Mary and Ken Bates, leaders of the NALC Disaster Response team, paved the way for our ground crew. Members of The Way Baptist Church were gracious hosts, opening their doors to our group so we could serve more effectively.

And yet … despite my experience on other disaster response trips, the Lord taught me new things. I learned about humility (“ … judge not, lest ye be judged.” Matthew 7:1). I learned about His sovereignty (“ … not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9). And I learned about His love (“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34).

It can be easy to enter another person’s “mess” of life and assume you (I) can fix it. I think this is especially true in disaster zones. I am learning, but sometimes it is hard to admit that I cannot fix everything. The rebuilding process is done one house, one board, and one person at a time. This is often humbling. Even our experienced mission group could only do a minute amount of the work that needed to be accomplished in that hard hit area.

God Teaching Me: In disasters, the physical damage is only the beginning. Sometimes we have seen spiritual decay amidst the destruction, even neglect and pain that has clearly gone on for years … way before the hurricane, flood, or storm struck. It’s so easy to pre-judge when this occurs. But the Lord opened my eyes to a new reality this trip. I have often wondered, ‘Why do broken buildings, fallen trees, hard stories, and sorrowed people break my heart?’ I think the truth is … it is my story! I believe witnessing the physical brokenness after a disaster can reveal the spiritual brokenness in my own soul. Just like getting caught in a catastrophic storm, we are truly helpless in this world. We need help from outside ourselves. Perhaps that is why I feel mission is so important, it puts us in touch with Christ. We can begin to see with His eyes—not just the physical needs, but also the spiritual. External appearances do not guarantee that the soul has not experienced its own spiritual destruction.

Stories of His Love: While in Clarksville, we heard that a school had scheduled its Christmas program for Dec. 9th. It was to take place in a large auditorium which could hold 300+ people. However, the program was moved to an earlier day to accommodate some students who would be moving out of state. God’s sovereign grace was manifest when that very auditorium, which would have held dozens of families, was utterly destroyed when the tornado hit on the 9th of December. Amazing grace, indeed!  

I am astounded at the lovingkindness of our Lord. That despite the loss of material goods, He spared so many holy lives of people. What happened was a tragedy, but He worked it together for good and for life. We saw people with no hope, begin to find hope, as we shared our faith and the life of Christ with them. It’s amazing how acts of charity will show forth the love of Christ in a way that words cannot. “Serve one another … ” (Galatians 5:13) Perhaps, in this, we see the truth and power of the Word taking on flesh in our own lives. Christ entered into our messy and broken world—through His incarnation, death, and resurrection Jesus met us in our darkest hour, healed our souls, and fully revealed His marvelous light … the Way of Salvation.

His Mercy: I had the privilege of working on a house which still had a lot of debris in the backyard. In conversation with the owner, I learned that they were present as the tornado came through. The next-door neighbors were home as well. After receiving a tour of the sacred space where their neighbor had lived, I learned that the neighbor, with two other adults and a child, crowded into the bathroom for shelter … Looking at the house it was easy to see that the bathroom was the only room left standing—all others were torn off and even the roof was mostly blown apart! That family was spared. God’s mercy was truly prevalent.

When I see the path of destruction left in the wake of a tornado (or other ‘storms’), it reveals a greater truth. Homes in shambles. People in shock. Tragic death and loss of what was once good. There’s no way to go back, and perhaps that’s the hardest part of the suffering in this world. We must move on. This storm humbled me. Witnessing the vast devastation put me in touch with the devastation of my own soul. It made me realize how much I need Him. It brought to light the spiritual reality that Christ truly is the only One who can heal and restore. While the team worked, we also saw the Holy Spirit work in the lives of those we served. In this same serving, I believe He healed my own soul. Perhaps that is why St. Paul implores us, “Let us not grow weary of doing good…” (Galatians 6:9)

Christ certainly met us on the road to Clarksville this year. I hope that you have a similar opportunity to join in Christ’s sacrificial love by stepping into the brokenness of the world and sharing His Light with those you encounter. May our souls find greater healing as we dare to immerse our very lives in the mission field.

Photographs courtesy of Teresa Dubyoski.