Since it will be out in April, I was tasked with finding something positive to say about the tornado outbreak that forever changed many towns and lives two years ago.
A piece titled “Spirit of a Survivor” seemed appropriate, and I couldn’t think of anyone who would inspire our readers more than Charlesetta Johnson.
My mind was on a million different things when I walked into the house blessing for Mrs. Johnson and her husband, Ricky, last February. However, she had my full attention from the moment she began her remarks.
“My attitude is that of gratitude,” she told the crowd.
After God, the main recipients of that gratitude were the Green Shirts.
An untold number of local storm survivors would not have a roof over their head today if not for faith-based volunteers like the Green Shirts.
Thousands of them have come from all over the United States and Canada to help the people of Walker County since April 27, 2011.
As the months turned into years, other volunteers grew disinterested and disappeared and FEMA moved on, but groups like the Green Shirts have remained faithful in their service to strangers.
It is evident from each dedication ceremony I have attended that they build more than houses. They also lay a lasting foundation of love under the people who will live there.
Mrs. Johnson told those of us at her house blessing to look around the room at the folks in green if we wished to see God.
The idea was so powerful that I spent the drive back to the office that day fixating on a single line for the article — “God wore green.”
I was reminded of this remark this week while interviewing members of the Mennonite Disaster Service, another faith-based group that has been working in Walker County as long and as hard as the Green Shirts.
MDS is currently on several rebuilding projects in the area. After Monday’s storms caused such destruction, they were temporarily reassigned to assist with clean-up efforts.
Most of the volunteers here with MDS right now happen to be college students on spring break.
If there’s anyone I enjoy interviewing more than a disaster recovery volunteer, it’s a college student. Getting two in one was like hitting the jackpot.
The young man I spoke with was even more fascinating because he is majoring in meteorology.
As a senior, I’m sure he has learned pretty much all there is to know about using the latest technology to predict where Mother Nature will unleash her fury next. However, this was his first opportunity to witness what that wrath does to people and their property.
The experience seems to have fueled his passion for emergency preparedness and response as well as meteorology.
Since he is already the type of person who spends his spring break in service to others, I can only imagine what good he will contribute to the world with those two degrees in the future.
I also enjoyed my chat with Bill McCoy, project director for MDS. He was not only helpful but also just an all around nice guy who believes it is a blessing to go where he is needed.
As I was leaving, Mr. McCoy gave me some literature about MDS. One line jumped off the page at me — “I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon.”
People who view volunteers like the Green Shirts and MDS as mere construction workers are missing the point of their presence.
They are walking, breathing sermons.
Each one is a living testimony of simple truths. Namely, you are not alone in the dark times of your life. God loves you, and He still has a few good people in the world.
If you don’t believe that, go find Mr. McCoy or the folks in green.