Five years ago, the people of Central Virginia were going about their daily lives working, relaxing with family and living through the hot weather. It was a normal summer day. There was no reason to suspect what was coming. In just a few hours, the world turned upside down. The derecho hit Central Virginia. A derecho is defined as a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds.
I was sitting on my front porch when the storm came. There were extremely high winds and a sense of impending danger came over me. I went inside, grabbed my wife and went to our basement. It wasn’t until the next morning that I looked outside and witnessed the damage. Trees were down everywhere. Even with my truck, I was going to have to clear several trees before I could even think of even getting off of my street.
I broke out the chainsaw, and began the backbreaking work. That’s when I got the call from Pastor Jonathan Falwell’s office, asking me to get there as fast as I could. Tens of thousands of people in Central Virginia were without power, the water system was out, roads were blocked and the temperature was going to be over 100 degrees. People needed help and Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University was a perfect place to set up a recovery location. They were centrally located, had the space, trained volunteers and Gleaning For The World had the supplies and expertise.
I will never forget the hundreds of thousands of bottles of water, personal care items, pet food, blankets and setting up a distribution center to distribute ice, food and water. For days after the derecho, there was a line of over a hundred cars lined up all day for water and ice.
That is what life is like in the disasters we work in all over the United States. We were here in our own community, and the Lord was with us serving His children. As an example of the miracles that took place, a nursing home had to bring all their people to Thomas Road. We had only a few hours to prepare. It just happened that Gleaning had just received a donation of reclining hospital chairs and beds from a local hospital. Within an hour, we were set up serving the people as they arrived. Providence.
We never know when the next disaster will occur. Five years ago it was Central Virginia, eighteen months ago was Appomattox, next time could be anywhere in the United States. We have seen the pain of losing homes, the frustration of being trapped by down trees, experienced living in extreme heat without electricity. That is why we are on the scene of major disasters in the United States within hours. Disasters destroy lives, homes and cause physical, emotional and spiritual pain. It is hard to realize the desperation of disasters until you live through one, as we have.
We will continue our work because disasters strike fast, cause major damage, and change lives forever. It is the best way I know to show people that someone cares. As a young lady in West Virginia asked me last year when the floods destroyed lives and people lost family members, “Rev. Davidson, soon this flood will be off the news. Our pain is just beginning. Please do not let people forget we are here and need help.”
I have not forgotten and I hope you will join with us in alleviating suffering wherever it may be. Let it not be “I”, but “WE” who have not forgotten.