I am sure that most of you have already heard about the devastating tornadoes that hit Central Illinois last Sunday.
Today I saw first hand a small portion of the damage done in Washington after the F4 tornado, and it just makes me sick. You cannot even imagine the destruction, and pictures don't do it justice. Washington is getting a lot of news coverage, as it well should, but Pekin, the town where I teach, was also hit by a tornado from the same storm system.
First thing Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the tornadoes, I drove to work in Pekin, not knowing what to expect. Again, I only saw a small portion of the damage, but it was astounding. I didn't know what I would encounter as my students were dropped off at school...but praised be to God, they are all ok and basically unscathed. The same is not true for all of the homes of the families at my school. It took a good portion of our morning just to hear each student's update on where they were, what they saw, and how they were dealing with the tragedy.
What to think in the face of such devastation?
I am currently thinking of the ways that people are pulling together.
The way facebook is connecting tornado victims with their lost belongings miles and miles away.
The way rival football teams don't seem to be rivals in the face of something bigger than a game.
And the way I saw hundreds of people out cleaning debris today, despite the freezing temperatures.
I also learned more about my students this week. That despite loss of power and water, major cleanup, displacement out of homes, living out of suitcases...each of them knew that it could have been so much worse. And their first thoughts were "We're ok. What can we do to help the people who are not?"
I know that there are lots of ways to be helping those affected in Pekin, Washington, and other locations. Please do whatever you feel called to. But please also remember to pray. Pray for the injured. Pray for those who feel lost. Pray for those who are still in shock and will deal with emotions later when support might not be as available. Pray for those working to clean up and rebuild these lives, especially in the conditions Central Illinois usually has in late November (today it was 18 degrees outside). Pray for healing. Pray in thanksgiving for the way that communities pull together to support one another.
Speaking of support, one of the first contacts I received checking on my school and students was from KidKnits. I wrote earlier this year about KidKnits, which is our class service project. Coupling the skill of knitting a hat on a round loom with handspun yarn made in Rwanda by impoverished widows, KidKnits has made a strong impact on my kids and my school. It teaches that "you are never to young to change a life on the other side of the world."
However, KidKnits is also very much about changing a life right across the state, or town, or block. We have a KidKnits community here in Pekin, and there is also a KidKnits presence in Washington. Impacted by the tornadoes in both communities, KidKnits is currently raising funds to help. You can read about their thoughts and reasoning here. Donations of at least $10 will get the donor a KidKnits backpack tag kit, a cool reminder of remembering to think outside of ourselves. What's even better? KidKnits is going to take the donations towards tornado relief and let the KidKnits kids in Washington and my KidKnits kids here in Pekin decide how to best use the money- adonation to a family in need, straight to the Red Cross, etc. The kids may not be able to make a significant donation on their own, but with the help of others, we can empower them to help those who need to be extended generosity the most. If you are interested in helping with their campaign, please click here.