From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
LETTER TO PRESBYTERIANS FROM OKLAHOMA CITY
05 May 1996 08:40:12
95300A LETTER TO PRESBYTERIANS FROM OKLAHOMA CITY
Editor's Note: The following letter of appreciation from Carolyn Stephens,
executive presbyter of Indian Nations Presbytery was received by the
Presbyterian News Service with a request that it be shared with as many
Presbyterians as possible.--Jerry L. Van Marter
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Living in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the last few months has been an
experience filled with many emotions that must be shared with you. So many
of you have reached out to us, sharing our grief, anger and questions. You
must also have an opportunity to share in the good things that have
happened since the fateful bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
at 9:02 a.m., Wednesday, April 19, 1995.
The personal stories of people involved in the disaster continue to be
told: A man had lost his Social Security card and had made an appointment
in the Social Security office for 9:00 a.m. on the never-to-be-forgotten
day. But in the mail on April 18 he received a copy of his card from his
mother, who lived in another state. She had "happened across" the card a
few days earlier -- the card she had applied for and received when he was a
child. He didn't go downtown that Wednesday morning.
People have stories of the way people reached out to help: A man (a
Presbyterian) from a small town in western Oklahoma, after hearing the
news, got in his truck and drove to the city. He was a welder, and even
before the emergency rescue teams could arrive, he had begun to build the
metal structures to give support to the remaining debris, allowing the
workers to get closer to the victims. No one told him to come, no one told
him what to do -- he just acted out of a concern for his human sisters and
brothers, doing what he knew best how to do.
At a downtown church that had allowed the Red Cross to set up an
emergency blood bank, people stood in line for as long as four hours to
give their blood to help the injured. One woman who had stood in line for
many hours was told she couldn't donate blood because she had recently had
surgery. Still determined to help, she saw a vacuum cleaner and began to
help clean the floors dirtied by the feet of the people giving of
themselves to others in need.
These are only three of thousands of stories about people -- people in
pain, grief and anger, and those who reached out to help.
The help wasn't all from people inside Oklahoma, however, and that is
the purpose of this letter. I want to share with you some of what you, our
sisters and brothers in the faith, have done in response to the horrible
act of April 19.
As of the middle of August, just four months later, we in Indian
Nations Presbytery have received letters, cards, songs, poems, paintings,
drawings, banners, posters and, most important, prayers. These have been
directed to families of children who died, to survivors, to the rescue
workers and other volunteers, to the children of the city (some of whom
still are haunted by fear), to the pastors, chaplains and counselors who
laid aside their own pain to help others deal with their suffering.
All of these gifts are wonderful, each in its own way helping to ease
the burden of grief that continues to hover over the city.
The financial gifts are almost beyond comprehension. As of this date,
approximately $347,000 has been received at the General Assembly and the
presbytery to aid our response to victims of the disaster. The list of
names of individuals, congregations and presbyteries who have sent
contributions is more than 31 pages long, representing nearly every state
in the country. It is very heartwarming and almost overwhelming. Never
before have I had the opportunity to personally witness such a generous
outpouring of Christian love and compassion.
On behalf of Indian Nations Presbytery, I offer to you our sincere
gratitude. Because of your assistance, we will be able to provide ongoing
counseling. We are giving assistance, through our Presbyterian Urban
Mission, to families and individuals who were previously receiving services
from agencies that are no longer in operation because of damages sustained
to their buildings. P.U.M. is providing food through a food pantry, meals
to the hungry, clothing and personal items to the needy at a rate of more
than double the usual services needed.
We are one of the primary funding sources for the Interfaith Disaster
Recovery of Greater Oklahoma City, Inc., a cooperative effort of 17
different faith groups joined to provide assistance that is not available
from any of the governmental or other agencies. Their work includes
managing more than two hundred cases -- and their caseload continues to
grow, especially since FEMA has closed its operation in Oklahoma City and
people are losing patience with traditional disaster agencies or do not
meet the eligibility requirements of those agencies.
A story from Interfaith: They were very successful in restoring a
sense of normality to the life of the young Middle Eastern man who was
detained in London immediately after the bombing and returned to the United
States. This man, whose luggage containing all of his clothing was never
returned, who only received compensation for his plane ticket two months
after his trip was aborted, and who became unemployed as a consequence of
the government action, was not considered a victim by many of the agencies.
At the young man's request, Interfaith has obtained counseling for his
family that is knowledgeable and sensitive to the family's culture and
religion. He and his family were helped to obtain financial, household and
job assistance to an extent that their family's life has almost returned to
a degree of normality. The joy and appreciation that this man expressed
made it abundantly clear that the work of Interfaith must continue.
At the 207th General Assembly in Cincinnati, Moderator Marj Carpenter
told of her pride in being Presbyterian and her pride in the mission being
done by Presbyterians throughout the world. For us in Oklahoma, your desire
to be in mission has become real and alive through your generosity. As we
continue to try to recover from the disastrous bombing, our hearts that
were once filled with grief, despair, frustration and anger are now
refilling with gratitude and thanksgiving to God for you, our Presbyterian
May you know God's blessing in your lives as you have been instruments
of God's blessing in our lives.
In Christ's Love,
Carolyn B. Stephens, Executive Presbyter
on behalf of Indian Nations Presbytery
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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