When Faith Kicks In

white dove On Thursday  morning, April 25, I travelled to West, Texas with staff leadership from the Central Texas Conference (Rev. Dawne Phillips, Rev. Kyland Dobbins, & Vance Morton) to assess how the Conference might best continue to respond to the tragedy.  A crucial part of the visit was meeting with members of West UMC & Wesley Chapel/Gholson to hear their stories and share our love, care and continuing support.  As is often the case, I drove away deeply humbled and gratefully blessed by their faithfulness. By way of background, officials in West have the blast area divided into three zones.  Zone 1 means some damage.  Zone 2 means serious damage.  Zone 3 means demolished.  As of this writing, the police are still not allowing people into zone 3. We were met at the church by Pastor Jimmy Sansom and two couples in the congregation (Carl and Ethel, Jack and Fayedell).  Next door neighbors for over thirty years, both couples are in zone 2.  Carl and Ethel took us by to see their homes after our visit.  The damage is so structurally deep that both homes are uninhabitable and will take major (insurance estimates $100,000+) repair.  Still in shock and just beginning to come to terms with the major life change facing them in their retirement years (actually Carl is not yet retired), the depth and breadth of the loss was hard to comprehend for both us and them. As we visited something amazing took place in listening to their story.  Fayedell was sitting on the couch when the doors and windows blew in.  Showered with glass, she escaped without a cut.  Jack was in the yard and blown down.  He told me that it knocked his pacemaker out of whack.  He had to get the pacemaker reset that morning (Thursday).  Carl showed me the destruction of his computer room – glass shards blown all over it.  Ethel showed us the destruction of her living room.  But it was their attitude, their (if you’ll pardon the inexact description) their “faith Spirit” (my term) they offered that moved me deeply. Fayedell commented about picking herself up after the explosion. She said, “That’s when your faith kicks in.”  As her daughter sat next to her, she witnessed to God’s blessing her life and trusting God to see them through this as well.  She spoke of losing two children to death and then added “you just have to hang on to God.”  There is a quiet faith foundation that will not be shaken in their sharing.  God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is present. Pastor Jimmy Sansom remarked: “Just as an example, Carl and Ethel had their house badly damaged, and with all that, they are the ones reaching out to other people who are going through times of trouble offering money and assistance – reaching out in the midst of all that they are going through. So the congregation is a mixture of helping each other out and helping the community out. We are indeed living out that Great Commandment - as Jesus said, ‘Love one another as I’ve loved you.’ It’s just been a tremendous outpouring of love and prayers from the congregation. Now they are going through some tough times, trying to get everything settled and dealing with insurance companies and such…but the outpouring of prayers and the offering of help from the church members and the community has just been unbelievable. You can see the hand of God at work in all of this – in the midst of the tragedy, you see the blessings.” For their faithfulness and witness I give thanks to the Lord.  May we continue to be prayer for the people of West and for West UMC and Wesley Chapel UMC in Gholson.  I thank God for the generosity and help coming from so many individuals and churches.  May we too live with a faith that “kicks in.”