As Garry Schaffer monitored the quickly approaching storm on his computer, he soon realized he needed to go downstairs to get his wife, Kan, and seek safety in a closet.
The couple had enjoyed a nice Christmas the day before and were resting at home on the night of Dec. 26, 2015, when an F-4 tornado tore through their two-story home on Lake Ray Hubbard in Rowlett, Texas. No one dreamed that night that the storm would come barrelling through so swiftly or cause so much destruction.
As the couple exited the closet and looked around, they realized they had survived the tornado by seeking safety mere seconds before their home was destroyed. The Schaffers gave testimony to the miracle that their lives were spared.
While they had insurance to cover the loss, a series of unfortunate events caused them to lose the money they received. The Schaffers are also retired, living on a fixed income and disability assistance Garry receives following an accident that broke Garry’s neck two years ago. Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery learned about the Schaffers’ situation through contact with Pastor Houmphanh Vongsurith of the First Laotian Baptist Church in Dallas. After contacting them and assessing their situation, Disaster recovery specialists Gerald Davis and Marla Bearden were able to find volunteer teams to help during the summer.
Now, seven months after the disaster, the Schaffers have received help cleaning out their home and will soon begin the process of rebuilding.
The night of the tornado, Mickey Matlock, student pastor at The Woods Baptist Church in Tyler, was with his family visiting his in-laws in Royce City watching the storm roll in. They watched the news over the next few days and were saddened to see the destruction that occurred just a few miles away. When Matlock began making plans for a mission trip over the summer with his church, he heard about an opportunity to serve through Disaster Recovery in Rowlett and soon made connections to go.
“This storm had really resonated with us and when the opportunity became available to take a team, I knew we needed to go,” said Matlock, student pastor at The Woods Baptist Church in nearby Tyler.
Matlock brought a team of 14, including his wife and two children, to serve in Rowlett July 12-15. Volunteers ranged from teenagers in his youth group to senior adults in the church who used vacation time from work to join the team.
“If we don’t do this work, who will? By coming here, we are able to be the hands and feet of Jesus and serve those in need.”
“The greatest part of this week has been building a relationship with the homeowners,” said Matlock. “I’ve taught my students that the work and physical labor we are doing is important, but serving this couple and encouraging them is the focus of our trip.”
The first day the team arrived, they worked to clean a lot where a home previously stood. They did not meet the homeowners or receive much information about the situation where they were and yet the team worked hard, leaving the site at the end of the day exhausted.
“I shared with the team that we are here to serve the Lord, even if no one else knows what we are doing, it still brings glory to God,” Matlock said.
The relationship between the mission team and the Schaffer’s quickly formed during the week of work and the team is looking forward to a potential opportunity to return and continue helping on the house later.
“If we don’t do this work, who will?” Matlock said. “By coming here, we are able to be the hands and feet of Jesus and serve those in need.”