Let's talk about peace and joy.
I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of compassion toward victims of the May tornadoes — and by proxy all of us who have grieved with them their losses and shared their pain.
We at The Oklahoman could write reams about the many acts of kindness as well as the short-term and long-term projects designed to help in the aftermath of the deadly storms. Two projects surfaced in recent weeks that touched the lives of many Oklahomans.
One was a “Peace Camp” for youths, presented by a church mission team from Cleveland, Ohio, and the other was a benefit concert featuring contemporary Christian recording artist Matthew West.
Debbie Fedrico, a coordinator of the camp, said the Ohio mission team connected with a North Carolina-based Christian humanitarian organization called CitiImpact (the nonprofit has been in the metro area helping to coordinate a variety of disaster relief efforts) to host the event for children at Shekinah Fellowship Church, 412 SW 104. (The CitiImpact nonprofit has been in the metro area helping to coordinate a variety of disaster relief efforts.)
Fedrico said the camp's goal was to aid the children who may feel traumatized by the natural disaster that literally swooped down into their communities.
She said the four-day camp drew about a half-dozen children ages 3 to 10 during the week of the Fourth of July holiday. She said the team, which included a clinical counselor, ran the event like a vacation Bible school, using the biblical story of Joseph to discuss the importance of trusting in God through troubled times. Therapy dogs also were brought in to help the children open up about their feelings.
“These kids have been through so much, and they have been traumatized. We told the kids that he (Joseph) went through all these trials and how God was faithful to him,” she said. “We drew on regular clinical counseling techniques to teach them coping skills.”
Fedrico said even though attendance at the camp was small, the comfort and support it provided was great, judging from the parents' comments.
“It's important for the children to know that God is with us and to be able to turn to the tried and true word of God in times like these,” she said.
Meanwhile, at Emmaus Baptist Church, 16001 S Western, contemporary Christian recording artist West and his band's lead guitarist, Court Clement, treated about 700 people to an acoustic concert June 28. The Rev. Mike Booth, senior pastor of Emmaus, said West gave the event a personal touch by sharing the stories behind some of his songs. Booth said the crowd was especially thrilled when West performed a humorous song about Oklahoma that he created minutes before going on stage.
“For anybody that was there, it was like they were sitting in his living room with him,” Booth said. “He encouraged people to laugh.”
The pastor said at least one family in the concert crowd lost a family member in the May 20 tornado that struck the Moore area. He said the family members told him they realized they had not laughed since the storm.
“He gave them a little bit of God's word, a little bit of light and a little bit of joy,” Booth said of West.
He said attendees gave as much as they received.
Booth said a love offering collected at the concert, along with a sizable donation from West, will go toward a disaster relief project, chiefly the Furniture Bank of Oklahoma City's efforts to provide home furnishings for storm victims.