Storms test members' preparation
At least 42 deaths were reported after a massive winter storm traveled from Texas to Maine and on through Canada Thursday, January 29. Homes, businesses, schools and entire areas were blacked out as 1.3 million people were left without power.
Among the areas hardest-hit was northwest Arkansas and southwest Kentucky, where 1-2 inches of ice caused power lines to fall, leaving homes without power and broken trees throughout communities.
"We were hammered," said Hal Bradford, president of the Springdale Arkansas Stake. "In spite of difficulties, it has been a blessing to see the sense of community and it gave us the opportunity to serve and help people around us."
With trees strewn throughout the roads, members worked side by side their neighbors to clean up and clear out their community.
"It creates a sense of unity," said President Bradford of the storm. "The things that normally divide people — occupation, education, background — in a disaster situation like this, goes away. All have common interests in needing warmth, a roof over their head and to be fed. Differences are put aside and [people] come together."
The severe storms, which forced more than 6,500 residents to flee their homes, caused an estimated 45 million dollars in damage.
In an effort to help, relief supplies were sent from bishops storehouses located in Texas, Indiana, Louisiana and Georgia. Generators, blankets, hygiene kits, cots, water, food and other supplies that were distributed through the local Red Cross shelters in Kentucky.
"The Church immediately responded and put generators on a truck," said President Bradford. "They [the Church] provided 20 generators and we needed 19. We saw miracle after miracle."
In the Arkansas and Kentucky areas all missionaries and members are reported safe, with local leaders caring for the needs of affected areas. Many members opened their homes to neighbors because they were prepared with generators and food storage.
"Everyone we had in our home were non-members," President Bradford said. "People would ask, 'Why do you have all of this?' We could then answer that we are taught to prepare so in times of hardship we can provide for ourselves and our family [and neighbors]."
By following the counsel given by Church leaders, members prepared for the storm, and were able to quickly assess the situation.
"The organization of the Church is in place to care for every single member," President Bradford said. "On Tuesday we got on the phone to start having phone call chains and it was already being done. The members knew what to do and every single member could be accounted for."
Although the storm and damage associated with the storm weren't wanted, they can, if handled in the right way, be turned into a spiritual lesson, President Bradford said.
"It has just been a faith-building experience," he said. "It was a reminder to me that new programs aren't needed, but that we just need to execute what we have already been given."
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I hope that we can all learn from this wonderful article that we should share what we have with others; we should also teach others that they can be prepared as well.