Wind of Hope eases trauma


SALISBURY, PA (July 6, 1998) -- "A peaceful community with homes that have been standing for a hundred

years." That's how the Rev. Steve Heatwole, Springs Mennonite Church,

described his town before three tornadoes -- the first on May 31 and two

more on June 2 -- devastated Salisbury, Pa. as well as nearby Elk Lick,

Greenville, and Summit.

A month later, the area's 800 residents are recovering from an estimated

$30 million in damages -- $5 million of it uninsured. Disaster response

organizations estimate that recovery will take at least three years, and

the sheer destruction is daunting: more than 50 homes destroyed and 100

damaged; a dairy farm with 17 outbuildings leveled; a maple sugar farm

with 1,500 trees -- half its production -- destroyed; and only three days

without rain in the midst of massive rebuilding.

There are still worse losses: a 13-year old girl killed when a tree fell on

her family's vehicle; a father and daughter dead of carbon monoxide

poisoning from an emergency generator; children with night terrors who are

afraid to leave their homes; adults with panic attacks and depression; and

an entire community that keeps asking: 'why us?'

"The fear is deeply set," said Heatwole. "This type of trauma is entirely

new to us."

Fortunately disaster trauma -- and more important disaster response -- are

not new to the Rev. Joe Brown, pastor of the Markleysburg Church of

Brethren and a Salisbury native.

Combining his experience in flood disaster response, love for his hometown,

and a talent for drawing people together Brown is the acting project

director for the new Wind of Hope Restoration Committee.

More than 25 churches, organizations, and agencies comprise Wind of Hope,

including the Church World Service, Aid Association for Lutherans, Lutheran

Disaster Response, American Red Cross, Catholic Social Services, YMCA,

Federal Emergency Management Agency, Habitat for Humanity, Mennonite

Disaster Service, Lions Club, Salvation Army, United Methodist Committee on

Relief, and dozens of local churches. All work together through Wind of

Hope, chaired by Rev. Heatwole, to meet needs that survivors can't handle


"It's Wind of Hope -- one wind," said Brown. "We've been through the

multiple winds of trauma already. Wind of Hope is about working together

peacefully. It's about one Holy Spirit working through all of us."

Wind of Hope operates out of a portable trailer office with a phone, fax,

and copier donated by local businesses. It has channeled the community's

fear into positive energy that generates extraordinary assistance for

tornado survivors.

Immediately after the storms, 500 volunteers a day traveled from as far

away as Ohio, Kentucky, and Wisconsin to help clean up and rebuild. A

relief fund administered by the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce totaled

$40,000 only two weeks after the storms. Donations of food, furniture,

appliances, toys, and supplies are filling local churches and schools.

Trees are being replanted. More than 75 families seeking casework are

already registered with Wind of Hope.

A crucial and challenging part of disaster recovery is creating an

atmosphere of hope, according to the Rev. Garry Kipe, assistant chair of

Wind of Hope and pastor at the Cornerstone Assembly of God. "We will never

get back our 100-year-old homes and trees," he said. "But we can bring back

our sense of community. We can breathe fresh air into this valley. These

are good towns and good people."

Patti Shaulis, a member of Meyersville Church of the Brethren, knows

firsthand about hope in the face of disaster. While she, her husband, and

their three children huddled in the basement, a tornado completely lifted

their house and dumped it over a nearby riverbank. "We looked up and there

was just sky," she said. "It took the paneling and baseboard off the

basement walls around us. It took the flashlights we were holding out of

our hands. Only God kept us alive."

Right now, Patti's plan is to help others. She serves on Wind of Hope as a

survivor who understands other survivors. "If I can help somebody get over

this their trauma, I will," she said. "We've scheduled one-on-one meetings

as well as support groups. We had insurance, but a lot of people didn't."

The Rev. Raymond Brown, pastor at St. John's United Church of Christ, also

speaks of pulling hope from the rubble. The church's sanctuary had $500,000

and the parsonage $50,000 in damages. The congregation is temporarily

worshipping with a sister church in New Germany, Md. Yet "every day gets

better," said Brown. "We're concentrating on the unmet needs of those who

were uninsured and those who will need long-term help beyond what federal

disaster funds provide."

Laurie Bender, a member of Oakdale Mennonite Church, lost her home. "But

still my family and I feel fortunate," she said. "The day after the

tornado, our church family and friends helped us move to an apartment. Then

they brought gifts and donations by the carload -- I'm not exaggerating! --

food, pillows and blankets, money, toys for the children, cleaning


Laurie said Wind of Hope has united people who wouldn't have worked

together before the storm. "We've all become more visible and more

vulnerable to each other," she said. "It's sad that it takes such trauma to

bring that about. It makes me wonder: what will happen when we get cleaned

up? Will people go back to their old patterns and the old standard? Or can

we work to still stay close?"

Laurie's neighbors, dairy farmers Darlene and Wendell Yoder, were sure they

lost their cows when the roof of their barn blew off and the second floor

collapsed. But the barn's heavy beams landed on scansions that suspended

them just above the cows' heads. "One after another, they cut them free,

and those cows walked out, one after another.

I'd heard of Mennonite Disaster Services, but to see them in action was

amazing. Within three days after the storm, the barn was under roof again,"

said Darlene. "Every family has some piece of good news or some hope they

can fall back on. There have been so many miracles."

Posted July 6, 1998

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