“The church died because it got old. It was here with the mindset to serve the neighborhood but it really never was part of it.”
These words were spoken to me Thursday afternoon and they have been haunting me ever since.
You see, I was in Memphis Thursday afternoon…and I don’t know if those words would have been so poignant had I not experienced being a neighbor as the church earlier that week.
It was Snowpocalypse 2014.
So, clearly I know nothing about snow. You wanna talk about sand and the beach? I’m your girl, but snow…..not so much. Just the fact that I saw snow twice in a week and a half is pretty outstanding (and never happened before in my life) . However, as I am assuming most people know we in the southeastern US experienced a “snowpocalypse” last week. Atlanta, Birmingham and all that is in between came to a screeching halt due to a few inches of snow and crippling ice. To be honest, it was one of the most bizarre days of my life. Tuesday I woke up to do some last minute reading and to pack to leave for Memphis for school later that day. While packing, I got a text from my friend Emily that it had started snowing. It was beautiful outside. After a few minutes of dancing in the snow (I mean, let’s be real….that was my first instinct) I realized that I needed to go to the the church quickly to get my backpack for my retreat to Memphis. Looking back now, I am certain that God sent me to the church at that precise moment for a reason. I returned to my apartment 29 hours later.
I got to the church, quickly grabbed my backpack and headed out. On my way out of the church parking lot I saw a car accident; it wasn’t just a fender bender but the drivers were okay. I called 911 and stayed with the drivers. While trying to get out of the way of the ambulance I proceeded to spin my car on the ice, and slide 180 degrees into the grass (hey, I know nothing about snow or ice remember?) The police quickly told me not to leave my car and to just stay in the grass. They also mentioned that there had been at least 5 car accidents on the same small road in less than 10 minutes.(Later I heard there had been a 15 car pile up on that same stretch of road I would have taken) So, I listened to them and this is the scene that I saw for about half an hour……
So, after finally getting back to the youth room it became apparent to our associate minster, Scott and I that we would quickly be needing to offer a place for people to stay as highway in front of the church had become a parking lot . A few people came in at first and began to tell stories that seemed unreal. One woman drove for almost two hours, just to get to the church….her office was across the street! We could literally see where she came from after driving for almost two hours. Quickly, people began to pour into the church at a rate that made it difficult to even know how many people were there. I was constantly pouring hot chocolate and coffee and listening to the tales of people battling traffic and ice to go almost no where. There was a sense of relief to be inside yet panic to not be home. Hours passed and the snow kept falling while more people poured into the church. Cars were abandoned everywhere, and people were walking to just seek shelter. As people walked into the church it became more and more apparent that no one would be able make it home that evening. As the realization of a overnight came to mind, meals need to be cooked and sleeping arrangements needed to be made. Because of a recent cold snap here in Birmingham our church had an abundance of blankets and pillows that had been donated by the congregation. Several people that were stranded worked together to cook dinner for everyone as well as the preschool children that were stuck at school and parents that were coming to be with their young children. Sitting with everyone and eating made it difficult to see who knew who, as it was already apparent that new friendships were being made within a group of stranded strangers. The Lord certainly provided in indescribable ways with enough blankets, pillows, food, and even a box of toothbrushes. I am still in awe of His provision.
As hours continued to pass, more and more people began to enter the church seeking shelter. Some came and stayed all night, while others just came to get warm and then continue on their journey. All and all we probably had somewhere around 150 people through the doors of the church. It amazed me that people thanked me so much for opening the doors of the church. How could we not? This is our home. These are our neighbors. They needed help. What else would we do? That is what the church is for.
I was amazed at what I saw over the 29 hours I was at church. I was in awe over the stories I heard….of parents walking miles just to be with their children. Teachers who spent countless hours comforting scared kids. People opening their homes and their hearts to care for complete strangers. I saw people who were stranded, separated from their families and those they love serve one another. I saw two men with a four wheeler drive all night in order to get people home or to bring necessary supplies to those who needed them. I saw neighbors loving neighbors….What Christ has called us to do.
So, there was a lot of snow and even more ice. It was inconvenient and frustrating. But, at the same time it was beautiful. It was how we should treat each other everyday.It was not just how the church should be, but how neighbors should treat neighbors. I am thankful for the sweet community that my church is a part of. I am thankful for the opportunity to not just serve that community, but to be a part of it.
and that is Snowpocalypse 2014