Recently, upon some last minute plans to take in the food and culture of West, Texas in celebration of my wife’s birthday, what we found there was astonishing, even given our knowledge of the disaster there.
I guess I expected to see people who could not and have not returned to any normalcy in their daily lives. I assume I expected to find a community whose citizens were holed up in their houses (those still fortunate enough to have one) who wouldn’t dare to grace a smile upon their faces, much less crack a joke. For the most part, I found just the opposite to be true.
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As we looked around town for an establishment that served authentic Czech cuisine, we waited in a line of vehicles of locals going about their daily routine who had also stopped for a passing train. I saw some men standing and conversing beside their motorcycles as they waited to continue on their weekend ride. I spotted a bumper sticker with an encouraging line dedicated to West in a song by a nearby local band. Inside that authentic establishment, we finally found, was delicious food, friendly service, light-hearted humor, and a downhome atmosphere. The spirit of this community was astonishing!
The information I had learned from available news sources, though, also didn’t prepare me for the devastation I saw. As we drove around town, I saw some relief stations set up here and there, with very few people gathered around them. I began to see more and more boarded up windows along the way, but there was eventually no doubt when we had finally arrived at the most affected part of town. There weren’t just a few damaged homes, as I was led to believe, but several entire city blocks, an apartment building, and an elementary school that were, for all practical purposes, totally destroyed. For a historical record, my wife snapped pictures of some of the devastation we saw along the way.
I saw large receptacles of potable water placed at the curb in front of each of these homes. Messages could also be seen, spray-painted on the fronts of these homes (not caused by vandalism, but placed there to convey words of sympathy and encouragement.) One home, obviously that of a fallen firefighter, donned the crest of the local fire department, with the name of the fallen hero and the letters “R.I.P.” One home especially evoked emotion for us as we read its message: “God Bless West.” My wife snapped a photo of this home (above); and when we took a glimpse of the photo after returning home, we were filled with emotion once again to see that the captured image was of a home with its damage completely obscured by the radiant light of a setting sun that completely enveloped it. My wife and I don’t often go out of our way to look for supernatural signs beyond what can be observed daily in our natural surroundings; but we both took this as a blatant sign that God had never left the side of this community, and that he does indeed remain there to bless them once again. This community is resilient; but we should offer our prayers for them daily, as well as our continued assistance in any way possible.
Biblically speaking, we live in a cursed world as the result of mankind’s original decision to accept sin and disobey our maker. In such a world, disasters can and will happen. If we follow His will for our individual lives and for our communities, however, He will bless us (even in the face of such tragedy) in such a way that our lives will serve as examples to those who need His presence. West is just such a community. They serve as just such an example. To quote The Chris Lowe Band’s song previously referenced to: “Our town might be shaken, but our faith is not stirred.”
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Photo credit: Shawn Paul
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