“Our Army is Your Army”
When natural disaster strikes, The Salvation Army is usually one of the first on the scene and the last to leave. For a small Salvation Army Corps in Michigan, that was also recently the case for a different kind of disaster.
On the morning of March 20th, Lt. Gregory Bock of The Salvation Army in Cadillac, saw a local TV news report, that three children from a nearby Amish Community, were riding in a buggy headed to school, when their pony got spooked and bolted into the path of a truck. Two of the children were killed and the other was flown to a Grand Rapids hospital.
The children were all members of the Miller family, whom Bock had never met. And yet he felt moved to reach out, to see if The Salvation Army could help. He began posting on his personal Facebook page that morning, about the tragedy. His posts received hundreds and hundreds of comments, from across the state, the country, and the world. Some from as far away as Japan. Most of the quotes in this article are from his page, with his permission.
“I felt early on this morning that I needed to go to that community and offer condolences on behalf of The Salvation Army. I didn’t know what to do or what to even say and wrestled with it all day. This afternoon, after picking up my own kids from school, I felt the urgency in my spirit to try and connect with the bishop of the Amish Community there.”
Bock found the bishop’s home and was invited in. “He knew exactly why I was there and shook my hand as he fought back tears.” Bock wrote. The bishop also shared that one of the children, had just turned seven that morning. And that when he was at the schoolhouse after the accident, one of the boys’ schoolmates said it would be his best birthday ever, because he would get to see Jesus. “My heart and the shield of The Salvation Army is moved with compassion for the Miller family, for the Amish community and for all their schoolmates.” Bock wrote.
The next day, Bock and a friend went to the Amish community to see how they could help. While they were there, the Miller family graciously invited them to join them for lunch. The father told Bock that he knew about Facebook posts and that all the comments and prayers touched him. “I shared with him that there are hundreds of people and Salvationists from around the United States and around the world praying specifically for them.” he wrote. “We were able to help provide transportation to and from the Miller’s home for the hundreds of Amish families who were paying their respects and condolences. It was a good night of serving, transporting our new friends, building relationships and just being present and doing whatever it is they needed done in the moment.”
On March 23rd, Bock joined hundreds of Amish families and attended the funeral. He again transported families back and forth and was also able to provide 40 chapel chairs and eight tables for the funeral and the family was extremely thankful. “I met many new Amish friends from across the country and even some from as far away as New York.” he wrote. “My hope is that as they go back to their own communities, they know that they can look to The Salvation Army in their own areas and seek out an extra hand, a prayer, a ride, or just a friend if needed. I tell people all the time that when others see The Salvation Army Red Shield, they see hope and know that behind that Red Shield is an army who loves and cares for them.”
On April 1st, the Miller’s daughter Hannah, was released from the hospital, and Bock, who had already done so many times, drove to the hospital. “Today, I, as The Salvation Army, have the opportunity to drive a few from the Amish Community down to Grand Rapids and pick up the Miller family and their daughter, and take them back home. Hannah is still healing from her very painful injuries.” he wrote. “I realize that this hour and a half ride back home for the Miller family will be a tough one. The conversations they may have, the questions, the tears. God give me wisdom on when to speak, if at all, and when to be silent and simply practice the ministry of “presence.”
Along with The Salvation Army, people from across the country have joined together to help the Miller family. According to a recent television report, thousands of dollars have been collected and the Michigan Amish Medical Board, a network connected to the state’s 60 Amish churches, will help with hospital bills not covered by donations.
In the meantime, Hannah continues to recover at home and spend time with her four-year-old brother. Bock continues his love and friendship with the Millers and the Amish Community. “It has been our honor to help this precious community. I’ve been there since the day it happened and we’re with them for that week through the funeral, to bringing their daughter home.” Bock said. “I’ve grown to love them all and they have grown to understand what The Salvation Army is and love us in return. I let them know that we are their Army too.”