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April 20th

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West, Texas: On the Rebound—A City with Hope


Editor’s Note: Today’s posting comes from Dr. Lou and Martha Jander, friends of LSS, who are graciously assisting in relief efforts in West. Make sure to have a look at their photo feed.  

West, Texas: On the Rebound—A City with Hope

by Martha S. Jander


Lou and I spent our Wednesday (April 24) in West, Texas. Lou had gone with the Red Cross assessment team last week Thursday, the day after the explosion in the fertilizer plant, which has now claimed 15 lives. As part of that team, Lou helped assess the amount of damage to over 100 houses.

Today, we went wearing two badges: one from Red Cross and one from Lutheran Social Services of the South. We traveled today to deliver gift cards to Sarah Williams and Margery Marshall, the two women from LSS Disaster Response, to touch base with the Red Cross, and to meet with Pastor Matthew Canion and DCE Tim Hetzner.

The Red Cross has, in conjunction with VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) set up a Joint Assistance Center, with 30 agencies helping those who have been struck by this tragedy. Sarah and Margery have a booth area there, where they have met with dozens of people, distributing gift cards, listening to stories, gathering information on needs, and, at times, directing people to other agencies that could meet their needs more specifically.

We talked with Sarah for some time. She told us several stories shared by those who had miraculously escaped being injured in the blast: one person normally looked out the north window when hearing noises from outside. This time she walked to the south window—and the north window blasted in.  Another person, hearing the noise, went from her living room in front of the house out the back door to look; as she did so, the front of the house blew in. Another moved from a couch where she had been sitting—and the ceiling fell in on the couch. They called these miracles—so do we. … Please keep Sarah and Margery in your prayers as they care for people through their listening and care.

We visited with some of our Red Cross friends—those we have gotten to know through our work with that organization. Jose Dominguez, Regional Director of Emergency Services, is in charge of the Joint Assistance Center. He and the several people working with him had already spent several days in West and will be there at least through Friday. He spoke of the great cooperation of all the agencies, and the great work people were doing. He looked exhausted—as did they all—but they will keep on because they are bringing hope to hundreds of people. Say some prayers for them, and for all the volunteer workers in West.

We spoke to a couple who were still picking glass out of their carpets from the broken windows that had been blasted into their house. They looked cautiously hopeful and stated they felt fortunate (I change that to “blessed”) because only their windows were gone. Two doors down, a neighbor’s house had been totaled by the insurance company. We saw others who still looked dazed and discouraged by what lies ahead. We heard of the nurses not on duty that night who went back to make sure all their “family” were safely out of the nursing home—and are now visiting these elderly folks at their “displacement” places. Pray for all those affected by this explosion, those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, the loss of homes and property, and those in need of monetary sustenance until something more stable arrives.

From the Joint Assistance Center, Lou and I traveled the short, round-about distance to the elementary school, where we met with Pastor Matthew Canion and DCE Tim Hetzner. Pastor Canion is the associate pastor of St. Paul Lutheran in Waco, Texas, and also serves as a chaplain with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Tim  Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, based in Addison, Illinois, was in West with five Comfort Dogs and their handlers. The dogs were doing their “work” with some of the children who had been touched by the explosion, including one who had lost a father. This child really connected with one of the dogs and the counselor asked if the dogs could return another day. They certainly will. … These dogs are beautiful, well-behaved, and are trained to bring comfort and healing to hurting people. Pray for Pastors Canion and DCE Hetzner, who bring hope to people through their comfort and care.

While interacting with the dogs after their work, we watched a huge flag being raised in honor of Dallas Fire Captain Kenneth Harris, who lived in West, but went to the aid of his fellow town volunteer firefighters. His funeral was today. Pray for family members of the 15 people who died, and who mourn their loss.

This has been a day of sorrow and of hope, of blessing and of seen needs, of blessing and encouragement. We are thankful to have shared it with good people who are giving of themselves to others who are hurting and in need. Thanks for letting us share it with you.

(A word from Dr. Lou Jander:  I want to thank Martha for writing this from all our discussions throughout the day and on our way back home.  God strengthens us to bring hope out of despair…joy out of sorrow…and Jesus into the world.  I’ve included a link below that has some of the pictures taken last week and those taken today…you may have to copy and paste in your browser to view the site…there are more pictures on a second page…click on “slideshow” to view them one by one in larger format.  We pray for all those in West, Texas and around the world that are faced with disasters, large and small.)

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