For the life of me, I cannot remember the exact year, but it would have been probably around 2006 or 2007 while we were living in Gothenburg, NE. Not every detail is clear, but I can never forget the bigger picture of what happened. It will always be fresh on my mind as the time when God showed up in a blizzard.
It was Thanksgiving weekend and travelers were on the roads heading back from their various celebrations. I believe it was a Sunday afternoon when my husband who is a pastor, got a phone call from one of our church members.
“Pastor, my son is sacking groceries downtown and said people are coming in off of the highway and interstate due to the roads being closed.” It appeared they were stranded and all of the hotels were filled up. The heavy snow had turned to a blizzard and continued travel was out of the question.
That is a problem. What are people to do? They have to have a place to stay and we have got to help.
So…phone calls were made and the requests for blankets, pillows, food and supplies went throughout the church and community.
Three or four places opened up to stranded motorists and our church was one of them who opened their doors to take people in.
In no time at all, the supplies started arriving as well as the people. They were tired and stressed but relieved that there was somewhere they could sleep for the night.
People brought games and movies, snacks and food. Some of our women took over the kitchen and nestled in to fix pots of soup with whatever supplies they could get that would feed a lot of people.
Word had gotten around that the storm was coming and so the grocery store was pretty well cleaned out. We would feed them for the evening and see what would happen come morning.
The people came from all walks of life. One man found a Hispanic family stranded in their car who spoke no English. He brought them to the church and we were grateful to feed them and give them shelter for the night.
An especially exhausted and high powered business man came in as he was heading back to Chicago. He was stressed about getting home and wondered how he could get out of town. Our response?
“There is no way to get out or anyone to get in once the roads are closed. You are stranded and will have to stay put.” He didn’t like that, but he had no choice.
The kids in our family and some others were so excited about the action taking place that they asked if they could spend the night at the church, watching movies, playing games and eating food. To them it was like one big party or camp out!
As evening wore on and people were fed, conversations and acquaintances were made. One man was very depressed because he had lost his farm that year. Was it a coincidence that he happened to open up to a man in our church who had lost his farm as well? I don’t think so.
The next day, there were no clear roads. They would have to spend another night. The ladies cooked, our local restaurants delivered donuts, Runzas and any food they had to help out. A neighbor lady hiked over in snow gear to bring fresh cookies. The town continued to show up with supplies and tried to meet needs in anyway they could.
By the third day, there were still some closed roads. A portion of the people got out and headed down an open road but other’s stayed. By that night we had moved the remainder of the people into our homes to give them beds, baths and whatever else they needed.
We were grateful that we could help and they were grateful over and over that we did.
Eventually everyone made it home and we sent all the blankets and pillows back to their rightful owners.
Driveways were shoveled and streets were cleared as we dug ourselves out of the blizzard we would never forget.
It was a pleasant surprise to receive many thank you cards as well as letters to the editor of the Gothenburg Times, thanking our community for the help.
My favorite thank you card came from the Chicago businessman who had tried so hard to get out of town. He informed us that he had never had a greater time than he had the couple of days he was snowed in with the people in Gothenburg.
Many people recollect that incident as being one of their most fulfilling life experiences. There is something about pulling together to help other’s that bonds a people together and causes us to realize that we really do need each other.
There is something special that happens when God shows up.
Sometimes He shows up in a blizzard.