By Kate Berkey - October 26, 2017
Posted in Adult Ministry, Partnerships, Global Impact, Stories from NMC, Discipleship
They became known as the tree team.
Our recent Global Impact team to Texas worked with Samaritan’s Purse, joining hands with other men and women from across the U.S to serve those devastated by Hurricane Harvey. They served where the eye of the hurricane landed, removing the trickiest downed trees from people’s homes and properties. A few from NMC had experience with tree removal, and those few were able to teach the rest of the team the art of cutting large trees. But even more than tree removal, this team brought a unique set of spiritual gifts that God used for His glory.
They weren’t just the tree team.
They were the team that helped others see Jesus.
Marcia worked alongside the men of the team with similar energy and endurance. She carried tree branches and debris and smeared dirt across her forehead when she wiped the sweat away. She didn’t sit back. She carried the heavy burden of manual labor with her team.
But when it came time to present each homeowner with a Bible and share the Gospel with him or her, she took off her work hat. She stood close to those who had lost so much, and her eyes spoke a language that few can master.
Her eyes told people that they were known and seen. They told people that she cared and that she understood what it was like to lose everything. Her eyes told people that they were not alone, that even though they were strangers, they could find a friend in her spirit of compassion.
On one afternoon in particular, the team spent time at a woman’s house, removing what seemed like the millionth tree. When they finished, they gathered around the woman to hear her story, give her a Bible, and pray over her. As she shared her story, she met eyes with Marcia, and in those eyes she found belonging. She found empathy. She found the heart of one who cared for and loved her. The rest of the group seemed to fade away as the woman found the compassionate eyes of Jesus.
Donnie’s story was one of hardship and struggle, one that included time at Teen Challenge. There, he was finding hope and healing, but only after walking through the mess and the heartache of poor decisions. Even still, he sensed God calling him to travel with the Global Impact team to Texas. He had seen the pictures and heard the stories of loss, and he couldn’t stand the thought of not doing anything. So he went to serve those devastated by the storm.
Before he left though, he grabbed three Bibles and three salvation bracelets that were sitting on the “free to anyone” table at Teen Challenge. He had no idea who would receive them, but he had to listen to the voice that urged him to pack them. As he came in contact with people, he kept his eyes open, asking the Lord over and over, “Who do you want me to give these to?”
Through partnering with Samaritan’s Purse, our group worked alongside three other volunteers who were from another part of the United States. These three had unique stories and circumstances that brought them to Victoria, Texas. They weren’t Christians. They just wanted to help others.
As Donnie served alongside them day after day, the Lord made things very clear. Although he came to serve those who were devastated by the storm, God had also sent him to serve these three whose lives were marked by a deep separation from Jesus. With love and humility, Donnie gave them his Bibles and bracelets, and through Donnie’s obedience, these people who were far from God saw Jesus.
Angie’s story is so much a part of who she is. It’s full of layers and hurts and joys and challenges. It’s full of God’s faithfulness even in the mess. It’s full of grace and redemption found only through the love of Jesus Christ. It’s her story, and she pushes through the vulnerability of it all to share it with others.
When she signed up to go on the Global Impact team to Texas, she didn’t really imagine that her story would play a significant role in the work God would call her to do. After all, she spent most of every day removing trees and clearing debris from people’s properties. But through the uniqueness of working with Samaritan’s Purse, she was able to work alongside Taylor, one of the three random additions to the NMC team.
As the two worked alongside each other, one a Christian and one not, they realized that their stories had common threads, experiences that they shared. Not all of their shared experiences were joyful; some of their similarities were found in deep pain.
They were both incredibly broken, yet Angie had experienced the redemption and restoration that comes with a relationship with Jesus. Through His courage, Angie was able to share her story with Taylor. She was able to tell the story of Jesus making something beautiful out of ashes. She was able to share with Taylor the love of Christ. This is the same love that was poured out on the cross for both women. Through the story of Christ’s redemption in Angie’s life, Taylor saw Jesus.
Yes, our group of 12 was known as the tree team. But they were also known as a team of compassion, obedience, and vulnerability. They became known for their kindness and humility, their servant leadership and their deep sensitivity to the Spirit. God used it all. He used their very tangible talents as well as those gifts given by the Holy Spirit. And through it all, people saw Jesus.