USA (MNN) — The storms that ripped through the eastern United States are now being blamed for 26 deaths. Millions were left without power as the nation suffers from an ongoing heat wave with temperatures in the triple digits–and not much relief in sight.
While the storms downed trees, caused power outages, and left some people without water, food and a cool place to get out of the heat, at least one church decided to do something about it.
Communications Officer with Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, Mike Tilley, says, "Our power company was reporting 65% of all of its customers were without power, which was the largest event ever for this power company. It resulted in, I think, about 75% of the city of Lynchburg without power."
The leadership of Thomas Road got together and decided that the church needed to do something. Tilley says, "Temperatures were around 100 degrees. People were without electricity and just in need. So we opened up our church facilities so that folks could come and get out of the heat: we started a cooling center."
According to Tilley, it didn't end there. "Folks started coming in, which then led us to make sure we had bottled water and ice. Ice, of course, becomes such a precious commodity in these types of storms and power outages. "
Gleaning for the World was just one of their partners in the relief effort. Tilley says they also began providing food, and they opened a small medical clinic. "We've had about 3,000 people who have come into the facility at different points to cool down. We had, on the first night, about 500 people who stayed overnight in a sleeping area. We saw that drop to 150 last night."
According to Tilley, they've made a significant physical impact. "We've distributed over 400,000 bottles of water, 30,000 bottles of Gatorade, and about 10,000 large bags of ice. We've served nearly 3,000 meals all in about a five-day period of time."
Why did Thomas Road do this? "We really have to work at earning the right these days to share the Gospel. As folks see our love for them and our care for them, they see how God has loved us, and we're able to share with them the Gospel."
A special July 4th service at the church was the platform for that. "It gave our pastor an opportunity to give a Gospel invitation, and somewhere between 70 and 80 people raised their hands in that particular service to ask Christ to save them. Others have been saved along the way."
Tilley is encouraging churches to be ready to reach out in times of crisis so they too can be ready to love people to Jesus. Pray that God will cause the seeds of the Gospel to take root and grow in the lives of those touched by the compassion of Thomas Road.