I don’t spend much time thinking about upcoming anniversaries. I don’t plan how I will spend my time reminiscing. I am caught off guard with most anniversaries. I find myself not thinking about things until I see my Facebook feed blow up with friends telling where they were when, or what impact it had on them. This has been especially true this year. It seems that I have been too busy to think about upcoming events, or to take time to look at my calendar long enough to realize something is coming. So I want to take a moment to reminisce about two of the most life-changing event of my life.
9-11 Twin Towers
I remember exactly where I was when news came of a plane hitting one of the twin towers. I was working on finishing a particularly irritating siding job where I had to run 8-1/2 foot pieces of beaded porch panel on the fronth entry way on a house we had already been paid to do. My business partner Dustin called me to tell me he thought the U.S. was under attack. He was a bit of a conspiracy nut, so I honestly didn’t put much stock in what he said until one of the other guys working on the house came out completely freaked out and told me that both towers had been hit. It was definitely not an accident. I quickly jumped in my truck and drove to the house Dustin was working on and we sat inside the house completely mesmerized by what we were seeing. We watched as the Twin Towers burned and a third plane crashed into the Pentagon. A fourth had crashed in Pensylvania, apparently on it’s way to Washington D.C., which we would learn later was brought down by it’s heroic passengers. We watched as people jumped from insane heights rather than burn alive. We watched the towers buckle under the pressure and the smoke cloud fill the air. We watched panick strike our nation. We watched and watched and watched as our nation was being forever changed.
A couple days after 9-11 we were standing outside of our church’s coffee shop looking up into a clear night sky realizing there was not a single plane flying overhead. We were talking about how none of us had ever known a time when there were no planes flying overhead. That’s when it hit me, I needed to go to NYC and help. I didn’t know how and I didn’t know where to start, all I knew was that I needed to go. I quickly talked to a friend and within ten minutes we had a plan. The next day I was getting ready to leave when I got a call from my friend and he told me he wasn’t going to be able to go. He said he couldn’t get the time off work. It took the wind out of my sail and I gave up on the idea, knowing in my heart I was suppose to go. Fast forward about four years later to another moment that was life-changing.
I was home for the summer after finishing my first year at Bible School. I was actually on my way back from Michigan to Oklahoma. I had made a stop at my parents for a few days when I started to see the images flash across the TV screen. Images of people desperate for help. People lost, hurt, and dying. People who were in the most serious situation of their lives and were powerless to do anything about it. After spending a day praying about it I found myself once again with an overwhelming desire to go help. Much the same as the 9-11 feeling, I knew I was suppose to go. The more I thought about it the more determined I was. I had been hearing that nobody can get in and that there was no way I could help. I had people close to me tell me to wait. I knew my window of opportunity was small and if I was going to act it had to be now.
That night I decided to go. I knew I was suppose to go, but didn’t know how it could possibly happen. There was no social media feeding me with the latest updates. I began to check online for churches connected to the Bible School I was attending and found one in Gulfport, MS. I tried to call, but all the lines were down. The next morning, Saturday September 3, 2005, I packed up and started heading south from my parents home in Alexandria, IN. On the I stopped to see my brother. After some conversations and a quick planning session he ended up in the truck with me. We drove all night and ended up pulling into Gulfport, MS at 6am on September 4, 2005. Through half a day of searching we ended up finding the church I had researched and they put us to work. We spent the next 2-1/2 days tarping roofs and helping wherever we could. Tuesday morning we headed north so my brother could catch a bus heading to Indianapolis and I headed back to Tulsa with a completely changed perspective. Something was birthed in me that would forever change the course of my life.
A Life of Serving
As the experience of these two events started taking root in my heart, Right Side Up Ministries was born. The mission statement “Helping turn lives right side up by turning the world upside down” came from my time spent in Gulfport, MS. 9-11 opened my heart to help others in disaster and Hurricane Katrina opened my mind to the possibilities. God took it from there and our ministry was born. My wife and I now spend a good portion of our year working to help churches help communities in disaster. We have taken our knowledge that we’ve built through numerous disaster situations and freely given it to churches willing to let us help. We have written disaster response curriculum and have worked with churches teaming them on how best to respond. It isn’t an easy life, but it is a life well worth living.
Has God ever put something on your heart and you missed it? Did you regret missing it? If so, what steps have you taken to ensure you don’t miss it again?