Blessings are being found amid the rubble, disaster and loss caused by the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma.
Even as thousands in the towns of Moore and Newcastle continue to deal with the dramatic aftermath of the disaster, local priesthood leaders are witnessing an uplifting surge of cooperation and love as people of all backgrounds work together to help those in need.
"The members have really worked hard to take care of their fellow members and work in their communities," said Oklahoma City South Stake President Gordon Bean. "We have seen the spirit of Christ."
President Bean and others call it a blessing that no members or missionaries were killed or injured in the May 20 catastrophe that claimed 24 lives. Still, the homes of 19 member families were destroyed. Twenty-three other member homes sustained various levels of damage.
Most of the affected members plan to rebuild and are receiving assistance from their respective insurance companies, but it could be several months before they are back in their own homes. Until then, impacted members are living with relatives, friends or fellow ward members as they search for temporary housing.
The damage caused by the tornadoes is also being realized in other areas in addition to the home. Several members of President Bean's stake were employed in one of the schools that was destroyed. Others worked at a medical clinic in Moore that was leveled. They will have to find employment elsewhere.
In the meantime, Latter-day Saints living throughout the greater Oklahoma City area and in neighboring communities are doing all they can to help. Over the Memorial Day weekend more than 2,300 member volunteers assisted with clean-up efforts in several impacted neighborhoods. More than 14,000 hours of service were provided in the efforts, according to the Church's welfare department.
On Sunday, May 26, members from the Oklahoma City South Stake gathered in their work clothes at their respective meetinghouses for hour-long sacrament services before heading out to help in their neighborhoods. Volunteers performed a variety of jobs, including clearing out debris and fallen trees from parks and in residential areas. Others helped tornado victims sift through their home sites for missing valuables.
Members often worked shoulder to shoulder with neighbors and folks from other faiths, making new friends and fostering a general spirit of service. "The outpouring from the whole community has been great," said President Bean.
Elders and sisters from the Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission were seemingly everywhere in the ongoing clean-up efforts, offering assistance wherever it has been needed.
The work continues throughout the region. Members of several stakes are expected to be in Moore and in neighboring areas during the June 1-2 weekend. A command center functioning out of the stake center is generating work orders that are then being passed along to volunteers.
President Bean has also been inspired by the tireless efforts of welfare officials at Church headquarters who have been working with local priesthood and Relief Society leaders.
"The spirit of cooperation has been unbelievably rewarding," he said.