WHEN IT’S ALL GONE Andy Hollifield 3-8-19
Job 1:22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Have you ever stopped to think about how you would handle it if all of a sudden everything that meant anything to you was gone? I dare say there are a lot of us that probably wouldn’t deal with it very well. Even if we did, the first thing we would do probably wouldn’t be to fall on the ground and worship. I lost one child through miscarriage and went all to pieces. Job lost seven sons and three daughters in one day and rent his clothes, shaved his head, fell on the ground, and worshipped. That comparison will humble anyone real quick won’t it? In Job 1:21 “And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Not only did Job lose his family that day, but he lost everything he owned going from unequaled prosperity to abject poverty in a matter of moments. Houses, land, possessions, and anything else can be replaced with enough time and money, but people cannot be replaced in your life, only remembered and cherished.
I have had a note in my pocket notepad for a long time with these thoughts, “When The Bottom Falls Out” and “What Will You Do When It’s All Gone?” I have probably to some extent, written on them before. As much as we get distraught over little minor inconveniences, what would we really do if we woke up tomorrow and everything we have was gone. I guess one reason I felt led to write on this tonight is because of the recent tornadoes that hit Georgia and Alabama. Having been on disaster sites before, I can promise you it is not only a learning experience but a humbling one as well. I have learned far more about the human spirit and being dependant on God from talking to people walking that road, then I could ever tell in a few words. To be honest, I have been put to shame by their actions a lot of times. Not by them intentionally, but by my own conscience.
I have written about some of these individuals before but because of their example, it is worth repeating. In 1992 in Homestead, Florida following hurricane Andrew, I was working the food tent of Hearts With Hands with some volunteers I had driven down. About 8:30 one night, a half hour after we had closed, a Dade County Sheriff deputy pulled up. He asked me if we were open and I told him we had closed at eight o’clock. He said he could come by later and I opened the gate and told him to come on in and get what he needed. He only wanted a couple of gallons of water to drink and wash off with before he went to work each day. When I offered him other stuff he graciously refused. He said they were working 16-20 hour days and they had to eat at work. He also said there were a lot of people in far worse need than him. We talked for several minutes about the work we were doing and the neighborhood we were in and to say the least, he gave me quite an education in only a few minutes. I never have forgotten him because of his selfless nature in the midst of adversity.
In Edenton, NC following Hurricane Isabelle, the folks there were too concerned with showing gratitude to volunteers and making sure all of us truck drivers had a good breakfast and everything we needed, to feel sorry for their own condition. Many of them as well had lost everything and others had suffered severe damage. Years later when tornadoes hit Jackson, Tennessee, in a community of severe poverty, I saw neighbors helping their neighbors even though they had bad problems of their own. In around 2002 when severe flooding hit Kentucky and West Virginia I saw the same thing. In Mullins, West Virginia I saw a man turn down water simply because he already had enough and someone else might need it. Another man was offered several packs of paper towels by the pastor there. He said he would only take one pack because he wasn’t the only one having to clean up. Actions like that have always made me want to do more to help them.
In Ocean Springs, Mississippi after Katrina, people there lined the roads in total darkness cheering our little convoy of about ten trucks as we rolled into town. Talk about bringing a tear to your eye, these people who had been through far more than I ever had, were standing in front of tents and makeshift dwellings cheering us like we were some kind of hero or something. I have never forgotten their display of gratitude that Saturday night. We even met a man who was unloading trucks there at night. He was working his landscape business leased to the city during the day and unloading trucks with his skid-steer loader most of the night. He would get 2-4 hours sleep a night and do it all again the next day. His home had been practically destroyed but was in better shape than most of his family so he had 14 people living in his home while he was gone day and night working. On Sunday before I left coming home, I watched as a HWH worker arrived and started going through several trailer loads of supplies. I noticed a group of about half a dozen women start walking that way from a government housing project across the road. My first thought, to my shame, was that they were coming to steal Jeff blind as he worked by himself. Instead, they introduced themselves and asked, “What can we do to help?” Several of them had also suffered devastating loss but still had compassion to help their fellow-man.
In 2017 in four small south Texas towns, Roger Smith and I were greeted with that Texas hospitality they are known for. I spoke with one young mother that I will never forget. When I asked her how they made out during the storm, she replied, “We did all right.” She went on to explain that her and her husband and children hunkered down in their house and watched the roof lift up and sit back down repeatedly for hours. That wasn’t what I would consider to be all right. In another town at a school, people were thanking us repeatedly for coming to help but when we seen their spirit, we felt like our efforts didn’t amount to anything. We even had a high school principal that I asked if he would like to give bibles to his students and he said, “No, I can’t but you can.” That is more acceptance than we have ever gotten in our own county.
Also a week later we went to Florida to take what I thought were left over backpacks that we hadn’t been able to give away in Texas. It turned out that I wound up getting in touch with the Salvation Army in Naples. It just so happened they were opening a new distribution center in Naples that was going to be serving from Naples to the Keys. They did not have any backpacks or school supplies and we were able to deliver there the morning they opened. Those weren’t left over backpacks, I just didn’t know where they were supposed to go until the Lord put me in touch with the right people.
As we prepare to make a trip to Opelika, Alabama to help our neighbors to the south, I have already experienced that same hospitality and gratitude. When I spoke with Tonya at Providence Baptist Church, she was so grateful that it made me wish I could get a load together a lot faster and go ahead and get it there. I am sure just from seeing news footage, I will encounter a lot of folks that looked out on Sunday to see what remained of the lives they once knew, lying shattered in pieces on the ground. I fully expect that I will once again see people with trouble of their own helping others instead of thinking only of themselves. I wonder if that is what we will do if there ever comes a time for us, “When It’s All Gone.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!