Growing up in Oklahoma, I've seen my share of tornado damage. I know that brick homes can be reduced to rubble, that grass can be pulled from the soil - that once the winds calm, an emotional storm can start.
So from the moment I heard a tornado had ripped through Joplin, Mo., I had prayed. And almost from the moment I heard, I knew I wanted to go there, to pray in the place where unruly winds had taken so much and so many. Six months later, we pulled off Interstate 44 just before the Oklahoma state line and turned onto the streets of Joplin.
We desperately wanted our 1,200-mile road trip to end and our vacation with family to begin. But there's no arguing when the spirit is tugging.
First we passed what was left of Home Depot and its makeshift tent in the parking lot. Then, we saw signs that were leaning, businesses with blown out windows and homes that looked like they had tripped over their own foundations. The boys had questions. Where do the people live now? Did anyone die?
We answered as best we could and then we walked to an empty cement slab and held hands and offered a simple prayer. The van was nearly silent as we drove out of town and back on to the interstate. We were each in our own worlds, each processing what we had seen.
By the time we reached the state line, the volume had risen again. The topic had changed, but the next time we prayed before a meal Benjamin remembered. And he has remembered every day, at every meal since then.
"Thank you for this food and help the people that got twisted," says the one who just turned 5. I never imagined he'd even remember pulling off the highway 10 months later, much less be continuing to pray. But standing shoulder to shoulder with your prayer request has a way of changing you no matter your age. It makes it personal. It makes it real.