I got an email earlier this week from a North Dallas resident named Shelby Spak. She’d recently had one of those special, inspiring experiences that make you sit down and write an email to a magazine editor. Here’s what she wrote:
I am compelled to write to you to suggest that you do a piece on a group of men called the Texas Chainsaw Ministry. Our house is located right off the intersection of Walnut Hill and Marsh, which was pretty badly obliterated by the tornado on October 20. My house is still standing, by the grace of God, but it’s one of only few that is standing around here. My yard, along with all of the yards around me, was destroyed. I am about 300 feet from the Primera Iglesia church, which was bulldozed Monday.
The week after the tornado, my neighbor had a crew of men in his yard, all with chainsaws, and with a Bobcat tractor. As I looked into the jungle of fallen trees in my yard, I considered anyone with chainsaws and a tractor to be sent from above. I learned that they are with Texas Baptist Men, and they run a disaster relief program in which they travel wherever they are needed in the United States to assist with clearing trees and debris that have been torn down by storms. My neighbor told them that we had already had a crew of volunteers from Jesuit — which I corrected to Cistercian — to which he replied, “Oh, are they different?” I said yes, but they all decided that, as a group, the Catholics need more chainsaws!
I called the Texas Baptist Men’s director of disaster relief that day, and I got in the queue for help. Four days later, I had a crew of five or six men with chainsaws, with the Bobcat, who cut down eight to 10 trees, and chopped up the trees that had already fallen, and hauled them to the street. They did in one day what would have taken several days without the Bobcat and without six grown men with chainsaws. Then they did my neighbor’s house, which might be totaled. Then they did the house diagonally behind mine, my neighbor Virginia. Then Virginia spread the word, and they cleared several houses on her street, too. All total, they spent about a week right here, and everyone felt a little bit of hope from the effort to clear these gigantic fallen trees that were surrounding us in destruction.
When we found ourselves sitting amidst a giant pile of rubble, it was a huge relief to see these people come out to help. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. I’m attaching a photo of some of the crew that helped in my yard. They started and ended the job with a prayer circle and left me a Bible, which they signed and on which noted their favorite passages. I think people around here would really like to know about this unbelievably generous group of people. — Shelby Spak