In the wake of devastation, a church reunites, a city rebuilds.
One life at a time.
At Journey Church in Norman, Oklahoma, the mission is evident: To see cities transformed one life at a time. This is not a mission the church takes lightly. The staff and members live it each day. And on May 20, 2013, they would realize exactly what their mission meant.
May 20, 2013 had the potential to be a completely ordinary Monday. But it was anything but ordinary. An EF5 tornado, the most violent classification, struck the unassuming town of Norman, altering the lives of thousands. Hundreds were injured, over 20 were killed, thousands lost their homes and businesses, and despite the area’s incidence for tornadoes, there were very few purpose-built shelters.
The mission-minded church wanted to help those who’d lost everything. But how could staff and volunteers reach out during such a chaotic time? Homes were destroyed, street signs were missing, phones were down, and power was out. They needed to quickly locate members to find out who was affected by the devastation…but that proved to be a daunting task when they realized homes and street signs had vanished with the storm.
Only two months earlier, Journey Church decided to move forward with the Megachurch Client Program with ACS Technologies. As a member of this program, the church staff would receive 24/7 support, a dedicated on call Account Manager, onsite training, and much more. When Journey’s Account Manager, Sylvia Watts, heard about the devastation in Norman, she reached out to Carolyn Williams, Pastor of Ministry Services at Journey. “As soon as I heard that the tornado touched down in Norman, I immediately thought of Carolyn and the people at Journey Church,” said Sylvia. “I was so concerned – I had to find out what I could do to help.”
Sylvia learned that the staff and volunteers at Journey needed a quick way to find their members, so she took immediate action. Within an hour, Sylvia and Account Specialist, Tommy Cotton, entered the addresses of all Journey’s members into Batchgeo.com, which provided a map, coordinates, and directions to each location. She remained on standby in case Carolyn or any of the staff needed assistance. “Sylvia was a life saver to us. She was so willing to help us in our time of need. The maps and directions helped us quickly find our members and begin serving them sooner, rather than later,” said Carolyn.
Reuniting a church, rebuilding Norman.
In the days that followed, the staff at Journey decided to open the facility as a shelter and began announcing this on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Volunteers flooded in, eager to help in any way they could. Donations poured in from all over the country, and hundreds of victims from Norman and surrounding areas came to Journey for shelter, supplies, food, and encouragement. The church became reunited and had the chance to fulfill its mission by impacting over 1,500 families in the Oklahoma City area.
The staff, volunteers, and members at Journey have not only reunited their church family, they’ve helped rebuild their community. Recently, Journey purchased a mobile kitchen in case of future disasters. Journey also maintains a Disaster Relief Warehouse for people to come and receive food, water, and other supplies. Jennifer Krupa, SWOKC Campus Pastor said, “It’s been a couple of months since the storm, but there is still a huge need for food and basic supplies to those affected. But aside from the food and supplies, people come in for a listening ear and a warm hug. And these are the moments that give each one of us hope in a hurting world.”
They’re rebuilding. They’re preparing for the future. They’re changing lives.
And hope is being restored…one life at a time.