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Story Team Weekly: A Freeing Reality

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“When everything that you’re holding onto is ripped out of your hands, you really start to identify where your treasure is.”

Andrew Burkhart, a pastor in Moore, Oklahoma lost everything he owned in the storm of May 20, 2013. His pregnant wife and young daughter were in their house moments before the tornado struck, but got out just in time before it was destroyed. Andrew tells his story of the wreckage and realizing where his true treasure is found.a-freeing-reality

“We heard that the storms were going to be bad, but living in Oklahoma, that’s nothing that really terrifies us. We just go, ‘Ok… today is going to be a bad tornado day. We’ll just keep an eye on the weather.’

So it was just going to be business as usual for me that day. My wife had asked me if I was planning on coming home early; and I said, ‘No, I need to finish up a meeting.’ So, I was at a coffee shop wrapping up a meeting when the alarms started going off and the weather started getting crazy.

So, they evacuated us over to Home Depot. While there, we were all huddled in, watching the news. Something in my spirit seemed to be warning me that this was going to be a really bad deal. I was hit with the sensation that this was really going to be a tough day for us in our city.

My wife and our 19-month-old were at our house, and I wasn’t there. So, as a husband and a dad, knowing that a tornado was heading straight toward my home and the two most important people in my life… that was tough!

My wife didn’t want to take our daughter out and try to load her up in the car in the midst of the storm, so she was terrified to leave. But, she felt the Lord telling her, ‘You need to get out of this house now.’

So, she made a fast decision, grabbed our daughter, threw her into the car and drove as far away as possible as fast as the car would go. And, about eight minutes later, that tornado ripped through my neighborhood. If you saw my neighborhood today, you’d see that it’s completely gone. I don’t know if they would have survived had they stayed in our house. Our home is just a pile of rubble.

At this point, I didn’t know if they were safe or not. All I could do was pray and ask for God’s help.

And about 20 minutes later, my wife and my daughter walked into Home Depot!

I can’t begin to describe the joy and relief that I felt when I saw them. At that point, nothing else mattered. It was almost as if the Lord was giving me another chance to love my wife even better than I had before.

Now, it typically only takes three or four minutes to drive from Home Depot to our house, but traffic was so bad that it seemed to take forever to get back home. We actually had to park quite a ways away from our house and then walk about a mile-and-a-half before we got to our driveway. So, I carried our daughter. My wife helped when she could, but she was pregnant which made things even tougher.

As we walked around the corner onto our street, we saw Robert, one of our neighbors. We were so happy that he and his family were safe. But, he had tears in his eyes as he told us that our house was totally gone.

The first thing that my wife said to me when she found out that our house was destroyed was, ‘All those letters that we’ve written to each other are completely gone. They’re all gone.’

We started digging through the rubble of what used to be our house and the first thing that we found was our box of letters. The lid had blown off the box, but every single letter that we had ever written to one another was just sitting in the box. Some water had damaged a few of them, but that’s all.

It was like God had grace on us to take the things that really mattered to us and spare them, even though we didn’t really deserve that.

So, that was the beginning of us dealing with this new reality of everything that we had that morning… we didn’t have anymore, except for the clothes that we had on our backs. I started thinking, ‘How do I lead my family through this? How do I contact the insurance company? What’s next in all this?’

Then the tough questions hit me: ‘How do I lead our church through this? How do I take the group of people that God has placed in my care, and mobilize them to be THE CHURCH in our city right now?’

Needless to say, it’s been an exhausting learning curve. And yet, we have seen one example after another of God’s grace through this. It’s been unbelievable. Yet, it’s still true that we don’t deserve anything. We actually deserve far worse. And, the fact that God saved my wife and our two daughters and these little items that we loved… it just made us realize that we serve such a good and gracious Father.

When I think about what I have done against Him, that He would have that kind of kindness toward me is just unbelievable. When everything that you are holding onto gets ripped out of your hands, you really start to identify where your treasure is. But, if your treasure is beyond all this – beyond the sun – if your treasure is found in Jesus, then it may sting and hurt or may even be exhausting and frustrating; but, there is still a level of joy that is unexplainable.

It was a freeing reality that the events of May 20th passed through the hands of a good Father first. And, even though I don’t always understand it and it doesn’t always make sense, I know that I’m not seeing the full picture at any time. I know that life is going through the hands of a good Father and that He is actually working this out for a greater good… hopefully for the salvation of a ton of people in my city.

Now, it’s not ideal for a pastor to lose his home with the rest of the city. And, to be honest, I feel pretty helpless right now. But, God is helping me focus on exactly what I need to focus on – my wife, my family, and the church.

And THAT’S what brings life to my soul!”

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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