This week marked one month since the deadly tornadoes swept through Kentucky leaving unthinkable destruction and heartbreak in their path.
It took an unusual 5-inch snowfall last week to slow down Jaime Masso, the pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana in Mayfield, Kentucky and his wife, Ana. They have been the rock in the Hispanic community, providing whatever is needed, during these troubling days.
Their day typically starts around 7:30 with answering text messages and voicemail; they offer lunches and dinners, and it’s 12 hours or more before the work is done. They have done that day after day after day.
Middle of chaos
They aren’t doing it out of sympathy but because of God’s call on their lives.
“In the middle of the chaos, we are encouraging people to see God putting things in order,” Masso said. “It’s amazing to see how people from so far are coming to help us and bring what we need to build up our city and homes.”
Mayfield is a long way from being rebuilt with cleanup still the top priority in the downtown streets. Masso’s church was spared damage from the tornado as was his home. The church has become a shelter and a food pantry, a place where the Hispanic community can find what they need.
“We are open for that one person who is needing something,” he said. “From facilitating a haircut, providing food, to fixing a car, we at Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana try to help people in so many ways, even after hours. [The] next step is to facilitate assistance to people in their dealings with homeowners’ insurance.”
Many Hispanics are being taken advantage of, Masso said, because of the language barrier, and it saddens him to hear the stories of that happening.
“I am feeling a bit tired, frustrated, as I hear the stories of how some people are being taken advantage of because they don’t know the system or language of insurance companies,” he said. “You might think that the insurer is helping people, but many times they just want to close a claim as fast as possible and don’t tell the people what they are owed. There is a lot of misinformation among people from other countries who don’t understand the system, and they just trust what the insurance adjusters say.”
The cost of serving others
Masso and his wife haven’t taken a day off since the day after the tornadoes struck on Dec. 10.
“I understand better now the cost of serving others is a sacrifice and always comes with a cost, a cost we have been paying since day one, as many other people have,” he said. “Since our church and home were not affected, it was a no-brainer to me, we need to help those who were in the worst situation. We have shared the gospel in so many ways, through tracts, personal testimony, visitation, telling people how good God is and how He is providing for everyone through churches, Red Cross, FEMA, Samaritan Purse, Kentucky Disaster Relief, so many others who sacrificed even holidays to be here.”
The way so many have come to the aid of those in western Kentucky has shown Masso and others that God is in the midst.
“I think God has been in complete control,” he said. “He set nature in motion in the Bible days and said that creation is doomed because of sin. But God has been providing for everyone. There are people, churches who lost everything, but God is providing through a lot of people who have to help us rebuild.
“If others could sacrifice for us, how could we not be engaged every day? We stopped just yesterday (Thursday) because of the snow.”
Masso said he explains to those around him that God is using others to help in this time of need.
“God is the one touching people’s hearts to come to help,” he said. “I have seen tears when people acknowledge that their belief systems were not right as God wants. I cite John 7:38, where Jesus said, ‘From those who believe in me as the Scripture says.’ That carries power because we cannot believe in Him the way we want. We need to come to the Bible to learn and clarify our beliefs and be in line with what the Bible teaches. Otherwise, we are not believing in God.”
Masso has sacrificed his time, church and even his home. A family of five whose roof was torn off during the storms are living with the Massos.
“Me, my wife and people from the church are 100 % (for the people),” he said. “If it was not by God’s strength and people stepping up, we couldn’t do what we have been doing. To God be the glory! We are just doing what needed to be done, and God enabled us to do it.
“At the end of each day, Jesus said we are doing what we were supposed to do,” Masso said. “No glory to us but to Him!”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Mark Maynard wrote this story, which was first published by Kentucky Today, which is the news service of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.