Beyond The Classroom

asia_frameOn May 20, 2013, an EF5 tornado hit Moore, Okla., devastating the city. The storm killed 23 people and injured more than 370 others. The next day Asia Smith received a text message from Brian Bowers, minister of community life for the Rochester Church of Christ, asking her if she had heard about the group from DRAW, a disaster relief organization, that was planning to go to Oklahoma to help.

This was not Asia’s first time to serve after a natural disaster. She had been on a trip in high school and recently spent over a week with Poured Out Disaster Relief in New York after Hurricane Sandy crashed into the East Coast last December. When Asia got the call this time, she knew she had to go, but she was not sure if she could afford the trip fees.

Within two days, Asia and several other volunteers were on their way to the ruined city, and Asia’s trip was completely paid for by the Rochester Church of Christ. “This trip was a whirlwind. I found out about DRAW sending a group of first responders; I received a text from Brian and the trip was paid for in a matter of three days. We left at 4 a.m. the Friday after the tornado hit and drove for 19 hours. It was an exhausting couple of days, but as soon as we got there we were ready to go,” said Asia.

group

Among the other volunteers were RC students Elliott Kern, Claire Poppleton, Miriah Jones, and Jessica Brooks, along with Chris Shields, RC’s campus minister, and his wife, Kristen.

The group spent the first day and a half working outside of Moore cleaning up debris at a local high school and elementary school. The second day, in the afternoon, the group finally headed into Moore.

“We drove into the city and almost immediately were overwhelmed by the amount of devastation. We had no words. You could look on one side of the road and see houses that were completely untouched and on the other side see an entire neighborhood flattened. The houses were just piles of rubble. People were rummaging through the piles looking for things they could save.”

The group spent the rest of their time cleaning up debris and pulling out trees that had fallen over and were coming out of the ground.

shovel

“The trip happened so fast I had to process it afterward,” Asia said. “But I loved being there and helping people in need.” Asia headed back to Moore in August to help with clean up. This time homes were still gone, but so were most of the volunteers. Though it was evident the city had made great strides in piecing itself back together, much still had to be done.

“I would certainly do it again. I love it. I don’t know why I love it exactly. It just combines the things I love, hard work and helping people,” said Asia. “I like being able to be there for someone. You don’t always have the right words to say, but being there and helping them in that moment of need is enough for them.”

Asia hopes to have an opportunity to help in the future. “It’s always so rewarding for me to be able to serve people with the talents God has given me.”

by Kayce McClure