A Music City mission
The sound of the tornado siren was nothing surprising. Every time we get a storm, the sirens go on and off intermittently at the slightest bristle of wind, and most of us living here in North Nashville have gotten used to it. Every few years, I’ll hear about a devastating tornado in another state which will put me on edge for a little while. But most certainly my normal reaction returns and I have to decide between Plan A and Plan B. Plan A: Grab the kids and hide in the hallway with blankets and pillows. Plan B: Go back to sleep and ignore the sirens.
The evening of March 2, 2020, was becoming pretty windy and stormy but having been out sick quite a bit in February, I knew I would need a good night of sleep before rising early to teach at my beautiful school of 14 years, Currey Ingram Academy. However, shortly after midnight, I heard the sirens and heard the urgent call from Thomas downstairs. I grabbed my pillow and made the sluggish walk down the stairs when he started barking orders like a drill sergeant.
I could barely hear him over the roar of the storm, and he was saying “It’s coming!” and pacing between the hallway and the front door all while yelling and demanding that we wake up and get to the basement. Within seconds, the electricity popped and everything went completely dark. I was trying to count heads to be sure the kids were all awake, and Thomas was checking to see if we could safely make it from the front door to the outside entrance of our dirt basement. He opened the front door to see our trampoline being hurled across the sky, never to be seen again.
He swiftly slammed the door closed and commanded us to get into the stairwell and hunker down. My first inclination was to argue that it wasn’t the safest place, but there would be no arguing. There was no time. So, we hugged as tightly as we could in the stairwell and prayed for the dear Lord to keep us safe. The sound of the wind was intermingled with the sound of houses coming apart, knocking sounds from trees falling, and pure fear.
The tornado only lasted a few seconds, and the evening quickly turned into a swirl of sirens, silence, and news updates via a dying cell phone. Sleep would not come easy and no one could predict the exhaustion that was still to come.
After we emerged from our shock the next day, several church members, from Church of the City Downtown, asked if they could come over and help us begin the cleanup process. We combed through the yard picking up shredded paper, trash, and insulation from all the houses that had been destroyed. We had some moderate damage to our roof and a few trees were now parked in our yard, but we were so thankful to be safe.
The next day, our friend, Brendon, dropped off the first of many chainsaws we would need that week. Our church friends came back as well, bringing with them more volunteers and more supplies. Soon, a community cleanup effort had begun and would grow to include over 100 volunteers coming in and out of our house and looking to Thomas and I for direction. Volunteers arrived from pretty much every nonprofit we work with from former parents, summer camp counselors, church members, friends, and many more. It became apparent God was calling us to step-up in a new way we had never expected. It was quite overwhelming. Supplies were rolling in, and our porch became flooded with canned food, diapers, cleanup supplies, water, styrofoam coolers, chainsaws, generators, gas cans, and so much more.
During this time, I had to lean on God for strength to get through the long days. Rachel, one of the leaders from church, came early one morning to pick up the kids and take them to school. We circled up in the driveway to pray for the day as we were readying to embark on the rescue mission we had surprisingly been called to. She asked what specifically we could pray for, and I replied, “Clarity.”
God brought clarity and peace of mind as we continued the task of walking up and down every street talking to neighbors and assessing needs. God slowly began to draw the lines and connect the dots from our many years of networking and ministry in Nashville. Pretty soon we found that if someone had a need, we didn’t have to be the ones to meet it. We just had to be the ones willing to listen and connect those needs to our many partner organizations.
Thomas’s full-time employer, Barefoot Republic Camps, partnered with us to provide a pop-up kids activity zone where neighborhood kids could play on the jump castle, get snacks, juice, and distract themselves from the business of our neighborhood cleanup. There were many jobs to be done.
Our network of ministry not only grew during the relief efforts but multiplied exponentially. We began to meet more neighbors in our 2-3 block radius than we’ve known the entire 14 years we have lived in this house, let alone the 18 years we’ve been planted in Nashville. The Nashville Dream Center, a local nonprofit, would soon become an integral part of our Nashville life. The Dream Center set up a temporary storage location in a nearby neighbor’s garage and began filling it with food and supplies for the neighborhood. In the months that followed, Thomas began working part-time with The Dream Center to partner with local food stores in providing food rescue to the community.
For the many years we have lived in our home, many neighbors have come and gone. But our neighbor, Cheryl, who was born and raised in her home, has been a sweet friend since the beginning. Her favorite homemade cookie, she never forgets to remind me, is chocolate chip with pecans. The tornado did quite a bit of damage to her home during the tornado, pulling off sections of the roof, clearing her wooden fence, and destroying a beautiful tree her mother had planted when she was little.
God began sending people to speak into Cheryl’s life. Rhonda, from our community group, and Cindy, one of my former parents, both began to invest in Cheryl’s life. Rhonda prayed with Cheryl on a frequent basis and invited Cheryl to come to church. During the tornado cleanup, Cindy came over every single day to help organize and manage cleanup, and she took time every time to visit Cheryl. Not to mention, Cindy also networked with her own connections to bring construction crews to the community to cut down trees, tarp houses, and connect needs to solutions.
Shortly after the tornado, members of our church began a GoFund me to raise funds to replace our roof. Thomas and I struggled to accept this gesture of generosity, but we knew right away that we would try to use the funds to help our neighbor Cheryl as well. So, it’s no surprise that God provided enough funds for us to replace both roofs with the money raised.
Samaritan’s Purse heard about the dire conditions of Cheryl’s home which had been in want of repair for many years. Volunteers began insulation projects, siding work, and repairs to her home. Women volunteers came and sat with Cheryl on her back porch chatting with her and reading scripture. Cheryl, who had been suffering from depression for some time, began to feel the heaviness in her heart lift and fell in love with scriptures again.
Not long after the tornado week passed, COVID hit the nation hard. Our bimonthly worship service at the Nashville Rescue Mission with our dear friends, Sarah and Jason Ascher, would be cancelled indefinitely. Summer camp, which we’ve been doing for over 20 years, would be canceled. My children and I went directly into virtual learning from our living room and kitchen table. Every human interaction changed at a rapid pace.
Although 2020 continued to throw us curve balls, our faith was not shaken. God has been leading us through trials and challenges for many years. Once again, we could clearly see God connecting the pieces of our lives to further His mission in our lives. Summer camps of the past such as SuperSummer and SummerSalt led us to Centrifuge. Centrifuge led us to meet Gary and Johni Morgan, who invited us to move to Nashville to join them in ministry.
Shortly after our move to Nashville, God connected us to Tommy Rhodes through an old Centrifuge friend. Tommy had founded Barefoot Republic Camps, and we fell in love with the mission of reconciliation and diversity. Barefoot has grown tremendously over the past 18 years. Through a dear connection with Tommy Rhodes, Amy Grant learned about Barefoot and jumped in headfirst to partner with us by hosting Barefoot day camps in the summer on her beautiful farm. Through a connection with a former summer camp counselor, ABC’s Nightline heard about the radical way God was using Barefoot and ultimately spotlighted our camp in a recent episode.
Connections. That’s how the world moves, right? Many people hope for connections to get a sought after promotion, to become rich and famous, or to be accepted and included. But God uses connections to further His Kingdom. The ways God has connected all of the people in our lives has been mind blowing. He truly uses every step to lead us to the next.
Thomas Rose ’96 and Dita Rose ’00 reside in Nashville, Tennessee, with their three children, Jrew, Jazzy, and Stella Joy. Thomas works full-time for Barefoot Republic Camps and The Nashville Dream Center. Thomas has also worked with artists including Casting Crowns, Lecrae, Andy Mineo, NF, Rend Collective and recording with For King and Country, Carmen, Social Club Misfits, Wes King, and Sandra McCracken.
Dita teaches at Currey Ingram Academy. They continue to minister through music with their band The Rose Factor, leading worship for summer camps, youth retreats, and sharing songs God has written upon their hearts. Their music can be found on Spotify and iTunes. If you’d like to partner with the Roses, you can reach them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Watch the ABC Nightline show about Barefoot Republic: https://abcn.ws/3oCNuar.
Originally published in the Spring 2021 CSU Magazine.