Grassroots: Reflecting on the Greensboro Tornado

This past week, a tornado struck my home city of Greensboro, North Carolina. It came fast and hard, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The night it happened no one really knew how bad. It hit the east side of the city, a place where attention hasn’t always been given. That night people were in chaos, I talked to a man who was not too far from where they struck and he told me that he was one of the first on the scene that night. He said it was like a warzone, absolute chaos and not much hope. The next day people began to mobilize, no one organization was the first to start, but a grassroots movement of the community began to take place. No company, government, or large entity; simply a community of people with one mindset: This is our city. On Tuesday, the staff at church began to simply walk in the streets affected by the storms. Door to door, doing what they could; grassroots. I was sick in bed Tuesday, but after seeing the full impact the storm left, my heart was heavy. Action Comics made history by being the first American comic to reach a thousand issues, Tuesday night it came out. What makes Superman so iconic is not the immense power, but the symbol of hope. Our city is filled with Supermen and Superwomen. On Wednesday morning, I went to the Peeler Rec Center, which is one of the main hubs in Greensboro to get involved. It opened a food kitchen and I chose to be there every day. We were a community, a true community. Neighbors coming together; a grassroots movement to help our city have hope. That’s the beauty of it all, I can’t explain why God lets things like this happen, but I do know that after the storm, there is a rainbow; a symbol of hope.

A grassroots movement is simply defined as ordinary people coming together to make a difference. Seems pretty extraordinary to me. God has uniquely wired us to need community, and as believers, we are called to help those in need and love others as we want to be loved. Working in the food pantry of Peeler, I saw amazing people. Students of Dudley high school making sandwiches for their neighbors who don’t have a school building anymore, Krystal, who has been heading up the efforts at Peeler, running off only three hours of sleep a night, a group of men from the east side who went our Sunday night and told me they wouldn’t stop until every person was taken care of, and my church I have the privilege to be a staff member of whose red serve shirts were seen as a beacon of hope. Grassroots. As believers, we are called to live in the spirit and follow after Jesus. Jesus always sought out those who were not high in society, and he loved them relentlessly. Every day I served at Peeler, and then on Saturday, the big push was to enter the Hampton neighborhood and clear it out. It was a beautiful sight. A group of people together in one place, with one goal in mind; to restore hope to a hurting community.

The church has always been a grassroots movement.

The thing I loved seeing on Saturday, was how much the community looked like what I believe heaven will be like. I didn’t know ninety percent of the people there, but we spoke to each other like family. We are family. We are made in the image of God, and that means we are worthy of love. Every person, no matter what, is worthy of love. The church began as a grassroots movement and thrives when it seeks to resemble that same concept. I am so thankful to be a part of a church that is intentional with being serve minded. Many of us can find ourselves talking big, but when it comes down to it, we shy away from putting in the work. What I mean by that, is we can say we are Christ minded and that we love others, but unless our actions show that, our words are empty. As a church, a body of people, a grassroots movement; we need to love others in word and action. This is what Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be important among you must be your servant. And anyone who wants to be first must be the slave of everyone. Even the Son of Man did not come to be served. Instead, he came to serve others. He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free (Mark 10:43-45).” Serving others is the biggest way we can evangelize to the hurting and the lost, because serving is a representation of Jesus dying for us.

The beauty in hope.

Every person I talked to that was affected by the storm had such a strong sense of joy. One man even laughed when he told me his tree was ripped out of the ground, because he wouldn’t have to rake anymore. On Saturday, Danielle and I walked through Hampton, and God put us in the path of a woman who was in need of getting her belongings out of the house. She said the city would have to demolish the house, it couldn’t be saved. When we asked her about the night of the storm, she told us she and her husband were inside their house. I was astonished. The ceiling was gone, doors blown off, and tree limbs that penetrated the walls. She and her husband in all reality should not still be alive. The only way to explain that is the fact that God is not done with their story yet. It reminded me of Noah, after the earth had flooded, God said he wouldn’t come to that level again, and the rainbow was a reminder of that promise. We can’t explain the “why’s” in situations like this, but we can cling to the fact that there is hope. We have a sovereign God. In all of the conversations I had, anger was not there, if anything, there was a stronger faith that God always provides, even when it feels like hope is gone. After every storm, there is a rainbow, and a rainbow is a reminder of a promise. A promise that God fulfilled when his son died and rose again to save us. There is beauty in hope.

Grassroots

I was so in awe this past week. The stories, the volunteers, the family that was made; grassroots. Even in the midst of this great hardship, God has been. Moving. He will continue to move because God is not done using the stories of the people in this city. I have loved each day being able to see the love people have shown, especially the way the church has come together. In these kinds of events, we can often act when the tragedy is fresh in our minds, but we need to be mindful that this will be an ongoing process. Wherever you live, be involved in your community. As Christ followers, we are called to serve and love others, so get out and serve. Begin a grassroots movement in your city. All it takes are a group of ordinary people to do some extraordinary things because of our great God.

Be the church, be a grassroots movement; this is our city.

-Joshua Thomas

 

If you are a Greensboro native, check out daystargso.com/forgreensboro, for opportunites to serve, or message me here and I can connect you with my contacts in the area!

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