Two days after Hurricane Irma barreled through our town, there are people in shelters. People that are being moved from one shelter to another so that schools can be prepared for children to return. Two of the shelters are for people with special needs.
Our church, Church of Hope in Ocala Florida opened its doors today for hundreds of people with special needs and their families to find shelter on our campus. Shelter from their homes with no electricity. Homes where it is not safe for them to live. They will be cared for by medical personnel, physicians, nurses, LPN’s and many more.
Our Hope family was asked to step into the lives of these people.
We, people who have as well endured a hurricane. Our homes are without power, our food will soon need to be thrown away and our homes and yards are a mess were asked to give of ourselves.
Step away from our own lives and jump into the lives of others.
Steve and I read the email from our church leaders asking for help.
Do we go? There is so much to do at home. There is a flooded basement to tend to. There are parents and grand babies. So many reasons not to go.
8:00am we went
We step onto the campus and there is a bustle of activity. There are medical personnel everywhere. There are people delivering cots, medical equipment and food necessary to care for hundreds of people.
I see my Hope family. Hugs all around. They are my people.
Roll up your sleeves or in my case, put on a sweatshirt cause it was really cold, and get to work. Now I’m not complaining about the cold air conditioning.
In rolls trucks full of water and cots for the patients
Everyone outside including my new friends. Friends wearing striped shirts and pants. Friends who are serving time in jail who were able to assist with the shelter set up and were some of the hardest working people at the shelter today.
A few hours later, busses arrived. Busses with people who have already been in a shelter for at least 3 days and are sick or disabled.
Some are old
Some are young
Some are sick and some are lonely.
Some just needed a hug and a smile. They needed to be told it was ok and some just needed to share their story.
I cried today. I didn’t cry because of the hurricane or because of the shelter. I cried for the lonely broken people in the world. I cried for those that will go home and still be lonely and broken.
I cried when friends brought their sweet 2 year old to visit the shelter friends. She brought her stuffed puppy and said that her puppy would help.
She made people smile because she smiled. It doesn’t make much to make someone smile. I’m grateful for her parents who will take time from their day to teach that sweet little girl how to show Jesus love to total strangers.
I cried as I helped carry people’s belongings from the bus, to the waiting area, to the intake desk, to the triage table and finally to the auditorium. Humble belongings as some carried their things in trash bags.
I watched as my friends stood behind the Hope Cafe and provided water, coffee and food. All day, the same friends served people.
I’m in awe of today.
If I was ever lacking in gratefulness for my life, today set me straight. I don’t know what lives my new shelter friends have outside the Hope campus but I do know my life.
I know the people I have in my circle.
I know the home we have created for us and our family
I know my church family and their hearts to serve others. Church of Hope partners with people so that they can discover in Christ there is Hope. I saw that with my own eyes today.
I know my community is stepping up and stepping out. Ocala Florida, you make America proud.
Tonight we are home.
There is no electricity but we have a roof over our heads, food in our belly and gratefulness in our hearts.
Heading back at 7:30 to have breakfast with my new friends.
You can read the article here: