Tuesday, March 31, 2020

White County Storm Damage Help

If you are looking for volunteer help following the March 29th Storm in White County, please sign up here:

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Family Forte: Your Family Needs Good News

by: Topher Wiles

     Are your family members stressed, anxious, frustrated, or scared? If the answer is yes, then I’ve got good news for you. You can help them and here’s how.

     First, get their attention. Ask them to turn off the TV or social media that is driving their fear. Then ask them to go for a walk, sit to eat a meal, or play a card game with you. Now that you have their attention, you can share some good news with them to brighten their mood during challenging times. In case you haven’t heard any good news lately, I’ve got some for you right here.

  • All sixteen temporary coronavirus hospitals in Wuhan, China have been closed. The new coronavirus cases are small enough in number that they don’t need these hospitals! That’s good news! (source: New York Post)
  • Erasmus Magazine reports that a Dutch team of 10 scientists have found an antibody that can block an infection of coronavirus. That’s good news! (Source: Erasmus Magazine)
  • Pollution has lessened with less activity. From the air in China to the canals of Italy, people are reporting cleaner environments. That’s good news! (source: NBC News)
  • Grocery stores all over the country are offering specific shopping hours for elderly to make sure they don’t miss out on essentials. That’s good news! (source: Katu.com)
  • White County has seen a grass roots effort to help neighbors out with its Facebook group, White County Neighbors Helping Neighbors started by Chasity Womack. This positive helping group is limited to those who live in White County and is now at 2,285 members. That’s good news! 
  • The Southern Ladies Quilting Guild, a community organization that meets once a month at Central Church of Christ, is now using their super sewing abilities to make masks for our local doctors, nurses, EMT’s, pharmacists, etc. That’s good news!
  • All around the community we are hearing of families getting back to a normal dinner around the table, board games to pass the time, and a promotion of parents being involved in the learning process at home. All this equates to more quality time and stronger families. That’s good news!
  • Churches are figuring out ways to stay connected, help the needy, love on people, and worship God all with restricted gatherings. Central Church of Christ has even begun a personal shopper ministry just for those high-risk groups who aren’t comfortable getting out into the stores. These efforts lead to more people involved in more serving. That’s good news!
  • Local organizations like the YMCA are taking the time off to make much needed improvements and upgrades to their services. That’s good news!
  • A friend in our homeschool cooperative showed up on our doorstep with farm fresh eggs the other day, completely surprising us with their kindness. People all around are sharing their abundance and compassion with others. That’s good news!
  • The grass is growing, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and the sun is shining in between the rain clouds. That’s good news!
     If I were a wagering man, I would imagine you could add many more good news items to this list. Yes, we admit that life is difficult. Jesus even admitted it too when He said in the gospel of John, “In this world you will have trouble.” If the Savior of the world admits that there is trouble in life, you better believe it is true. Yet, even Jesus understands the need to pause and take a look at the positives when he follows his admission with, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

     Paul, the world traveler who saw a lot of hard times including hunger, beatings, and imprisonments encouraged his readers to stop for a minute and meditate on a few positive things. Here’s how Paul says it in his letter to the Philippians. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

     Sometimes, we all need to turn off the radio, tv, and social media telling every reason why we should panic, fear, and stress. Replace some of that stinkin thinkin with your own list of the good news going on around you. Don’t forget to add the best news to your list that through Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection He has overcome the world. Now go share that good news with others for as Paul said, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim the good news!” (Romans 16:15)

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

If you are looking for the latest map posting of Covid-19 cases in Tennessee, then please click here: 

To view Topher's interview with a medical doctor and pathogen research doctor about the coronavirus, the please click here:

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Tennessee Covid-19 Map Update March 31st

**Notice** Topher has chosen to reinvest his time into organizing volunteer chainsaw cleanup around White County following the storm damage from March 29th.  Other local news outlets are finally beginning to create county by county maps for Tennessee, so this map of data and Topher's time investment is no longer needed.  Thank you for understanding.

Tuesday, March 31st
3/31 Tennessee Updates - 2389 Positives - 23 Deaths - 121 Recoveries
Click image to enlarge and zoom
Good evening Tennessee friends. I apologize for missing Sunday & Monday with map updates. We were a little "under the weather" from storm damage in White County and I've been busy directing cleanup crews. In White County, we picked up our 2nd case today, which I take to mean we've done a good job of social distancing with only one more case showing up after 6 days. Again on the maps, it is our larger metropolitan areas and younger ages seeing the struggle with coronavirus spread.  Keep praying, loving, and distancing. #flattenthecurve #coronavirusTN #TNcoronavirus #Covid19 #Coronavirus #Covid19TN

3/28 Tennessee Updates -1512 positives - 7 deaths
Click image to enlarge and zoom. 
Good afternoon Tennessee friends.  Here's the latest map update combining News Channel 5 stats with the Tennessee Health Department posting. The good news is, our rural counties are not growing at an exponential rate yet. The bad news is, our metropolitan areas definitely are.  We saw 6 new counties added to the map for a positive case: Carter, Decatur, Hardeman, Trousdale, Union, and Weakley. Thirty-one counties have yet to see a positive test result.  From the stats, metropolitan areas and the 21-30 age range need the most help and prayer in limiting the spread. Keep loving, encouraging, and helping your neighbor as we distance to #flattenthecurve.
#coronavirusTN #TNcoronavirus #Covid19 #Coronavirus #Covid19TN

Animated TN Coronavirus Map from March 19th - March 27th
Click to enlarge.

Friday, March 27th
3/27 Tennessee Updates - 1321 Positives - 6 Deaths
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Big thanks goes to News Channel 5 (@NC5) and Fox 17 News (@FOXNashville) for staying on top of these numbers. The good news is, we only added one new county to the list today, Smith County. We still have 37 counties with no positive test and 28 other counties who did not increase today. I used Excel to calculate the exponential equation today, and I can tell you that I'm concerned about the future of this virus in Tennessee. My new column "#increase Per Day" illustrates my concern about the exponential equation. I do agree with major media, we need to do more to #flattenthecurve, especially in major metropolitan areas and among the 21-30 year old demographic.  Friends and neighbors, keep loving, praying, helping, and social distancing.
#coronavirusTN #TNcoronavirus #Covid19 #Coronavirus #Covid19TN

3/26 Tennessee Updates - 1098 Positives - 3 Deaths
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First, thank you to all those who are working hard to #flattenthecurve.  Being connected to people who are in community leadership, essential services, and the medical field, I hear and witness how hard everyone is working in these unprecedented times. Keep working hard and finding solutions. Today's map adds a grid pattern to those counties that 3 counties that experienced a loss of life. May God bless us all as we continue to social distance and serve.
#coronavirusTN #TNcoronavirus #Covid19 #Coronavirus #Covid19TN

3/25 Tennessee Updates - 906 Positives - 3 Deaths
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Well, today was a little disappointing as our county, White County, saw its first case. Of course, that doesn't change anything because we still need to continue social distancing and common sense hygiene.  Tennessee saw one more death added today and four more counties with positives.  No counties decreased in number of positives. The good news is, we do have 42 counties with on positive tests and Weakley county that was removed from the list yesterday.  Again, News Channel 5 had more updated information than the TN State Health Department, so I used the higher number for this spreadsheet. Let's keep working to #flattenthecurve .
#coronavirusTN #TNcoronavirus #Covid19 #Coronavirus #Covid19TN

3/24 Tennessee Updates - 773 Positives - 2 Deaths
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The State Health Department and local news sources do not match by 3:30pm today.  I am posting my map and graph with the higher numbers based on News Channel 5, which appears to be the updated resource.  We do have some positives today.  No more deaths were recorded and only 4 counties were added to the list. Weakley county was removed from the list today showing no cases! Hamblen, Hamilton, Perry, and Scott all showed reductions too.  Keeping working to #flattenthecurve .
#coronavirusTN #TNcoronavirus #Covid19 #Coronavirus #Covid19TN
Resources: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/tennessee-confirmed-cases-of-covid-19-now-at-773

3/23 Tennessee Updates - 615 Positives - 2 Deaths
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We do have some positives going on in the map and graphs today.  Williamson County's color lightened a little and some other counties saw their numbers decrease today. I'm unsure if those are recovered cases or if positives were redistributed to different county locations based on residence. The best news is, for the second day in a row our curve has been flattening slightly in TN!  We also saw no other deaths added today, which is a big deal. Let's continue to #flattenthecurve . #coronavirusTN #TNcoronavirus #Covid19 #Coronavirus #Covid19TN

3/22 Tennessee Updates - 505 Positives - 2 Deaths
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TN Covid-19 Map is updated with Sunday 3/22 afternoon info. I suspect there was a little less reporting with today being a Sunday, but we're gonna look for the positives anyway. Our case number curve was not as steep today as it was yesterday; hopefully that curve flattens out more soon. Tennessee has only seen two deaths, which is at a 00.40% rate, or 4 out of 1000 positive cases. By comparison, Italy's sad numbers for today were 59,138 positives with 5,476 deaths at a 9.26% death rate (93 deaths per 1000 positives). The second death in TN reportedly from Vanderbilt Hospital this weekend. Yet, it spite of tragedy, we continue to hear messages of hope and testaments of good will. As always, keep loving, encouraging, and serving your neighbors.

371 Cases - 1 Death - 3/21 Tennessee Updates
Data is updated between 3-4pm each day. 

228 Cases - 3/20 Tennessee Updates
Data is updated between 3-4pm each day.

 154 Cases - 3/19 Mobile friendly Graphic.

154 Cases - Map & Spreadsheet updated on 3/19 from newest 3/19 TN data.

99 Cases - Map & Spreadsheet updated from 3/18 TN data.

Hello Neighbors, I’m just a Tennessee boy, born and raised in Rutherford County.  I was honored to teach high school math in Davidson and Sumner Counties, which means I enjoy fiddling with numbers and data. After struggling in my search to find a map and graph combo illustrating what I was looking for in the covid-19 pandemic, I decided to create my own with Excel and Photoshop. Tennessee Volunteers are known for sharing and helping others, so here you go. Keep praying for our communities. Keep helping your neighbors. Keep using common sense to reduce panic and promote health.  I’ll endeavor to update the map & graph daily on my website www.topherwiles.com.  Let me know how I can pray for you.  In Him, Topher Wiles

Important Links:
Tennessee Department of Health guidance for Faith Based Organizations

Central Church of Christ:

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Family Forte: 4 Ways to Combat Effects of Self-Isolation

by: Topher Wiles

     We’re mindful of our changing times but not manic.  We’re cognizant of new challenges but not crazy.  We’re focused on the coronavirus, but not fearful.  We’re aware, but not worried.   With that being said, the writers at Family Forte are mindful, cognizant, focused, and aware that families may struggle in many ways over the next few weeks.  We’re prayerfully seeking to give practical advice in accordance with God’s truth to you through our newspaper and blog offerings. 

     One of our concerns for the next few weeks of change in your family life is the affects that can be felt by self-isolation and staying indoors.  In May of 2019 the American Psychological Association gave this warning about isolation in American society.  “Loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. Forty percent of survey participants also reported they sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they feel isolated.  Such numbers are alarming because of the health and mental health risks associated with loneliness. According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. She’s also found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.” (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation)

     Wow, social isolation can have inherent health risks just like smoking, alcohol use, and obesity! The CDC’s recommendations of self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic is great for limiting the outbreak but we’re looking at some challenging side effects that can harm our families.  The good news is, there are ways to combat isolation issues.  Here are a quick four suggestions for your family. 

  • Begin a small group study – While our current government administration is advocating for limiting group interactions of ten people or less, that doesn’t mean you can’t get together with another healthy family.  Pick a family from church or the community and meet together a couple times a week to study a subject.  Pick a book of the Bible, a popular best seller book, or a documentary series to discuss.  Maybe you and a friend can finally work on that car, bathroom, or landscaping project you’ve been putting off.  You can still enjoy that regular social time together without violating the CDC’s guidelines.   Who knows, you may continue that small group effort well beyond the coronavirus outbreaks. (Visit BibleTalk.TV for free study resources.  I know Mike, the author, personally and love his material.) 

  • Get regular exercise – Don’t sit in the recliner all day watching the news.  Go for morning walks with a friend, learn to swing a tennis racquet, or hit the treadmill with a friend on Facetime.  Likewise, encourage the same for your kids with some of their friends.  Enjoy those exercises that limit personal exposure but still give you social time and exercise together.  Just as you would combat the effects of depression with exercise, use exercise as your tool for benefiting yourself and your family.  Having been a high school tennis coach for 8 seasons, I do believe this is a great time to start a morning and evening tennis league in Sparta where people can exercise, socialize, but keep an appropriate distance.  Look for more info on that soon!

  • Get outdoors – Here in the Upper Cumberland we are blessed with some of the best outdoor features to brighten your day and give you a little social time.  Be inspired along with your family as you hike the Scenic Black Mountain Overlook in Crossville.  Go play outdoors as you hike around the top of the Ozone Falls State Natural Area. Stretch your legs on the beautiful pioneer trail at Cumberland Mountain State Park near Crossville. Enjoy the wildlife along the Collins Nature Trail near Rock Island.  Personally, I think it’s hard to beat the glorious rim trails at Fall Creek Falls and Savage Gulf State Natural Area near Spencer and McMinnville.  Go see every major waterfall within an hour’s distance in the next four weeks.  Get outdoors with your family or with another family to beat the negative effects of isolation. (visit these websites for more info:  Unforgettable Upper Cumberland Hikes, 10 Waterfalls Within One Hour of Cookeville     

  • Use that technologyFacetime on iPhones and Macbooks, Google Duo on Android devices, and Skype on PC’s are wonderfully easy ways to connect with your friends and family from the comfort of your home.  Set up a regularly scheduled time to have video conferencing conversations with friends and family during your stays at home.   Make it a point to encourage others through technology and you’ll be blessed. 

Begin now with implementing effective isolation interventions and get the most of this challenging time in our history.  As always, contact us with concerns at topherwiles@spartacoc.com or office@spartacoc.com with suggestions, questions, or concerns.  May God continue to bless you and your family with faith, hope, and love. 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:36-39
The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Family Forte: Dealing with Devastation

(I want to give a big THANK YOU to my wife who wrote this article for the newspaper while I was chainsawing in Cookeville. I couldn't do what I do in disaster relief without what she does to support me and fill in while I'm away. Thank you Ashley!)
Family Forte: Dealing with Devastation by Ashley Wiles
Fear.  Shock. Grief. 

These are some of the emotions the people of the Upper Cumberland woke to on Tuesday after violent tornadoes tore across communities in middle Tennessee.  Close to home, parts of Cookeville and Putnam County were devastated: businesses were lost, homes were destroyed, people were injured, and lives were lost.  At the time of this writing Tuesday morning, the pictures and details of the devastation are just coming to light. It is horrifying to think of such a tragedy happening in a place where you travel, work, and live, and it is shocking when it touches your friends, neighbors, and family.  There just aren’t words that can adequately express these gut-wrenching feelings. 

For families with children, there is added difficulty in being confronted with tragedy of this magnitude.  If we as adults find it difficult to deal with these big emotions, think how challenging it can be for children.  Children may be seeing pictures and hearing stories that they don’t understand, and it can be frightening and confusing.  

Don’t be afraid to discuss difficult events with your children.  Take the opportunity to reinforce your family’s values and to foster hope and resilience in your children.  Consider these four “P’s” to help you teach your children about coping with natural disasters and other emergencies.

  • Process. Talk with your children, and allow them to process what they’re thinking and feeling.  Provide an age-appropriate explanation of the event, and let them ask questions. This is the time to reassure them that they are loved by you and many others who will help them if something bad ever happens to them.  Remind them that even though our world is broken by sin, God loves them and cares for them.
  • Pray.  Make prayer a priority with your children.  Pray for them and with them, and ask God to help you both with your fears, sadness, or other difficult emotions.  Pray together for the people who have been directly impacted by the catastrophe.
  • Prepare.  Every family needs an emergency plan of what to do in the event of a tornado, fire, or other emergency.  Talk about your plans with your children, and practice them together. Where will you gather in your home if the tornado sirens sound?  If there’s a fire, how will you get out of your house, and where will you meet? Who should a child go to if they need help? Does your child know the name and number of someone outside of the immediate family they can contact in an emergency?  Do your children know who will care for them if something happens to you? Having a plan helps children feel more in control of an otherwise overwhelming situation.  
  • Participate.  Tennessee is aptly called “The Volunteer State”; as soon as word got out about the tornado, offers of help came pouring in.  Unfortunately, the clean-up will be a long process, and needs will last more than the first few critical days. As you process and pray with your children, consider how your family can participate in the volunteer effort.  Perhaps you can all go together to purchase requested supplies to donate. See if there is clean-up work in which you can be involved. Topher has a passion for disaster relief, and our sons have been involved in storm clean-up since they were four or five.  Even at that age, they could go with us to pick up sticks and tree limbs out of someone’s yard after a storm had moved through. Now, years later, Gabriel and Ethan have both been to the Gulf after Hurricane Michael, and as I write this, they and their father are out chainsawing and clearing storm debris in Putnam County.  Participating and helping, even in a seemingly small way after a tragedy, combats the terrible feeling of helplessness and shows children that they are an important, useful part of the community, too. 
Ethan, Gabriel, and Topher take a pause for a photo
after hours of chainsawing and cleanup on March 3, 2020
in areas damaged by the Upper Cumberland Tornado.

Building strong families is not just about spending happy, quality time together.  Strong families work together to cope with tragedies, too. By helping our children process, pray, prepare, and participate, we’re equipping them with tools to help them navigate the difficulties of life.

When faced with the reality of a broken world where terrible things can happen, I’m sometimes tempted to despair.  I’d like to leave you with the closing words of Psalm 27, which has often encouraged me to hope. I pray that you will help your children see the goodness of the Lord, even in the midst of terrible times. 

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.”  - Psalm 27:13-14
The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Family Forte: Remember, Reflect, and Remain

by: Topher Wiles
     “What can we do?” That question has been asked to me many times from kind-hearted people in the last few days since the EF-4 drastically changed lives in the Upper Cumberland.  Last week was my eleventh tornado/hurricane to pack my chainsaws to in an effort to rescue victims, clear roads, and clean people’s properties.  Wearing a big orange disaster relief shirt, having a big orange hardhat, and running a big orange chainsaw must make people think you know what you’re doing.  So as a simple volunteer I’ve frequently been asked the question by other volunteers, church members, and friends from many states away, “What can we do?”  For all who have asked me that question, I first want to thank you for your heart and your willingness to honor God by serving others. 
     Now that we’re more than a week removed from the initial hit of the monster that barreled from Nashville to Cookeville, my answer to the question is evolving from “pick up that log; tear down that wall; tarp that hole; donate money; say a prayer” to the simple words, “remember, reflect, and remain.”  It was a tornado victim and friend of mine named Robin Embry of Henryville, Indiana who taught me the value of these three “R” words.  Here’s the story. 
     It was March 2nd, 2012 when the EF-4 ripped through rural Indiana, causing damage and the loss of life late one Friday evening.  It hit hard in the town of Henryville, Indiana a couple hours away from us in the city of Washington.  Early Saturday morning, March 3rd, our church had a crew on site with a tractor and chainsaws clearing the ruinous roadways for ambulances and firefighters to use their skills where they were needed most.  When we cleared a driveway leading to the basement of a home that was damaged, we became forever connected to Robin’s family and became a part of the story of their lives.  Months later when Robin came to speak at our church he said, “There’s no way I can ever repay you for the kindness you all have shown, so today I simply remember and I thank you.”
     Robin would remember us in a significant way soon.  A year and a half later in November, just three weeks before my third son was born, Indiana saw 30 tornadoes spawn in one day, and one of them hit our city of Washington just before sunset.  Can you guess who showed up with chainsaws and a generator to help just hours later?  Robin, his wife, and church family were right there shoulder to shoulder with us helping and serving in any way they could.  When the tornado hit Tennessee last week, guess who made contact with us through Facebook on Tuesday.  You guessed right again if you said, “the Embry family.”  Over the years, Robin and his family have taught me that we can continue to help others with three “R” words; remember, reflect, and remain.  Here’s a message Robin sent me in 2017, five years after his home was hit by an EF-4 tornado. 
    “I simply want to say thank you!  I encourage you to continue reflecting Him in all you do and seeking His plan for your life. It’s easy for us to say “God has a plan for me!” However, at times, it’s a challenge to live with a full commitment to actively find out all we can about His plan – through books, messages, videos, questions to those that know Him, and most importantly His Word! Continue to allow Him to guide you (as He is with this move) and remain faithful regardless of circumstance (as Joseph – whether in a pit, Potiphar’s house, prison, or a palace). May God bless you and your family richly! Let’s continue living out His plan wherever we are! As always, please let me know if I can be of assistance.”
     Remember – Just as Robin remembered 5 years later through messages, I encourage you to mark the March 3rd Tornado in your calendars.  Remember those who have lost homes or loved ones.  Remember the kindness of the volunteers who swept through our great Volunteer state.  Remember when the nation looked on and saw how neighbors help one another.  Remember to pray for the victims next month, next year, and for the years to follow.  Remember to go back and thank those who served you in the hardest times.  If you were affected by the tornado, remember to serve others if their community finds itself in crisis one day.  Remember God and the love He has shown us.  Simply remember.
     Reflect – Just as Robin said, “continue reflecting Him in all you do,” I share the same with you.  Reflect God’s love as you continue to hug, hold, and listen to the hard stories that people have to share.  Reflect God’s patience as people and services struggle in the aftermath of the disaster.  Reflect God’s joy in the little moments such as when a wind blown photo is returned to an owner or when someone gets to move in again to their repaired home.  Reflect Jesus’ servant nature as you continue to help in the long rebuilding process to come.  Simply reflect.
     Remain – Regardless of the circumstance, remain faithful to God in His Word and God will grant to you and those around you the peace that passes understanding in some of the toughest times of life.  I want to personally say, “Thank you” again to all those who remained faithful in serving our neighbors affect by the tornados.  May God bless you and your family richly.
     “What can we do?”  Remember, Reflect, and Remain. 
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7