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Preparing Your Heart for Disaster

Life is full of little tornadoes. You may have already experienced one today. Every time that happens, in a seemingly insignificant way, your faith is on display.  

Your reactions, visible or not, help build what becomes your spiritual posture. If you have allowed God to mold you into someone who finds strength and peace in Him through the little tornadoes, that will be your default posture through the big storms of life. However you respond, you are showing what you put your faith in.

An act of nature on May 22 has provided a platform for America to see the strong spiritual posture of the people of the city of Joplin, Mo.

A couple of months ago I committed to participating in an 800-mile bike ride to raise money and awareness to support the continuing relief efforts in Joplin. It’s called the Present: Hope Cycling Tour.

I thought we were going to be telling the story of how badly the people of Joplin needed to feel hope after the destruction of the tornado.

I was wrong.

After visiting Joplin, I now know our mission is to tell the story of hope that the people of Joplin are exhibiting. We all need to learn from them, to witness the posture of strength, identity and perseverance, which has become burned into my spiritual memory.

We met families who have come face-to-face with death, destruction and almost quite literally have had their lives turned upside down in an instant. And they were strong. Hope was in their voices, and they shared their triumph over the elements as if they know something we don’t.

I think I’ve figured out what they know. They know no one is simply “a person who knows how to handle a tornado” or “someone who deals well with tragedy.” Those qualities are already in you before the tragedy.

You are the same person in life’s little tornadoes and the big ones. Your reaction to getting stuck in traffic, and getting pinned under a car both represent your heart, your faith, and your spiritual posture.

I met a man named Jason whose wife was killed as a result of the tornado in Joplin.

“I know that God is in control,” he said.

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He sent his wife’s wedding ring with his pastor, one of my teammates on this bike ride, to serve as a reminder of his story of hope. He knows that his life has purpose now. We are bringing that story to people in need.  

Many people in Joplin are looking for provision of their tangible needs. We can help with that. Many of us need to grow in our faith, hope and strength. The residents of Joplin are strong, hopeful, and faithful. They can help us, if we pay attention.

Disasters of all sizes are a part of life. You don’t become a hero in an instant. You are a hero far before you will ever have a platform to be seen as one. It starts small. It starts with character.

Ask God to teach you how to make decisions (even little ones) that represent His strength, His purpose, and the hope we find in Him.

We are not bringing hope to Joplin. Joplin is bringing hope to us.


Ben Skoda lives in Chicago. In the summer of 2010, Ben rode his bicycle from Seattle to New York with Venture Expeditions to raise funds and awareness for modern-day slavery, and is cycling to the Catalyst East Conference from Joplin on the Present: Hope Tour.

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