King's Kitchen assists tornado-ravaged Oklahoma community
by Emily Adams
This “For Sale, Open Floor Plan” sign sits in the debris pile where a home once stood in Moore, Okla.
SYLACAUGA – When disaster strikes, it’s never long before King’s Kitchen responds with a helping hand and a hot meal, much like it did this week in a tornado-ravaged Oklahoma community.

A group of eight men from King’s Kitchen, a ministry of The Sanctuary, and Birmingham-based Refuel Ministries loaded up May 23 with enough food for about 4,000 meals and headed for Moore, Okla., which was devastated by a May 20 tornado that killed 24 people, including seven children, and injured hundreds. The tornado ripped a path through the city roughly two miles wide with winds more than 200 miles per hour.

King’s Kitchen Coordinator Bobby Davis, who also assisted during hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the 2011 Alabama tornado outbreak, said Oklahoma was a different kind of destruction than what he has seen at other disaster sites.

“It was totally devastated,” Davis said. “I’ve always thought if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all when it comes to tornadoes, but one thing that was different about Oklahoma is the debris was shredded so small. They said the tornado sat in the same place for eight minutes without moving, so everything was just completely shredded.”

The food ministry set up a serving center about a block away from the heart of the destruction and about two blocks from an elementary school that was leveled by the storm, he said.

“The city was torn to pieces as far as you could see in any direction,” Davis said. “There were some sticks left on trees, and that’s all that was left. No houses.”

One thing that stood out as the group assessed the area was the clean-cut path of the storm. One side of the street “had no problems at all, but on the other side, everything was gone except maybe a wall and a bookshelf left standing,” he said.

During its five-day stay, the group served meals of pot roast, chicken and rice, jambalaya and barbecue pork and chicken for Memorial Day. Davis said residents were “doing the best they could trying to put the pieces back together,” and the assistance King’s Kitchen offered was well-received.

“It was a great response,” he said. “They were thrilled. We even fed some of the police officers and made friends with them. People in the community would come by and tell us ‘thank you’ and ‘God bless you.’”

Much progress toward recovery was made in the week King’s Kitchen was there, he said, as numerous volunteer groups helped sort through the aftermath of the tornado and provide essential services.

For King’s Kitchen, a warm meal has become an effective ministry tool in situations such as this, said The Sanctuary pastor Freddie Edwards, who did not travel to Oklahoma, but has served during other disasters.

“Everybody needs to eat, and it gives people one less thing to worry about,” Edwards said. “We have ministers with us, so our guys can go out in the community and spend time praying and ministering with people as well. Just being able to give them that opportunity to not have to worry about what they’re going to eat or where to get it from is worth our effort for the trip out there.”

Over the last decade, the church has traveled to multiple states providing food and other items during disaster and is now called upon by the national Chaplain’s Commission when a disaster occurs.

“They usually call and ask if we would be able to go, and of course, we’re ready,” Edwards said, crediting community support for allowing the ministry to continue.

“We really have to thank the community for always being willing to donate food, supplies and funding for these trips,” he said. “The response is always great.”

The group may be returning to Oklahoma next week, if the need persists, Edwards said. Volunteers are welcome as well as donations. For more information, call 256-207-2464.

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© 2013