West, who has lived in Nashville for 10 years, was on the road when the flood waters washed over his town. As soon as returned and found that his house was spared, West felt compelled to help others—not as a recording artist, but as a volunteer with a hammer.
Earlier this week, West jumped in and assisted a crew from Samaritan’s Purse, then spent time with Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains serving in Nashville. It was on Tuesday that he met the Napiers, a couple whose testimony and courage in the face of disaster is nothing less than inspiring.
“It’s one thing to see it on the news,” says West. “I’ve been on the road playing shows—to come home and see my city hit like this—it’s kind of overwhelming the amount of devastation this flood has caused.
“My heart just breaks,” West adds, “specifically for this couple, and here they are trying to share with me how they believe that everything has a purpose.”
A Light in Crisis
Mary and John Rapier, who have owned their house for more than 25 years, are just getting over the initial shock of the flood, and awakening to how much has been destroyed.
“This is the worst water that I’ve ever seen in this town,” John told West. “But it has brought the community together. We’ve never had this type of communion or communication. The flood is something God has not done against us, but for us. This is all for a purpose—the flooding, the repair—to bring people together.”
Mary agreed: “This is a tremendous testimony to nonbelievers. We are blessed to have so many wonderful people come out and help us. That’s the most rewarding thing. It gives the people around us an opportunity to see Christ.
“For Samaritan’s Purse and Franklin Graham, and Billy Graham and his organization, to come to my house … now I know what I’ve seen on TV for years is real.”
Through all the pain, said Mary, “He does great work in us and is maturing us in our walk with Him. To lose everything we have was never our desire, but if it means we are a tremendous witness to those who are lost, it’s OK. For me to see firsthand the tremendous beauty and love of fellow Christians is wonderful.”
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Words of Encouragement
“The world responds not just to our words, but to our deeds,” West said to the Rapiers. “For you to be a light in the middle of crisis for people, to see the impact, is powerful. I’m standing here talking to you in your home that has been completely devastated, and yet the faith you guys are sharing with me, that just inspires me.”
He also shared with the couple, “It’s how we act, and how we live our lives, and how we display our faith in difficult times that sends a message to the world: ‘OK, that’s what faith looks like’ and that’s what you are having the chance to do. I know you would never ask for this, but many times, God uses us through the times of our lives that we wish had never happened.”
God never leaves us during hard times, said West. “We may wonder, ‘why did this have to happen?’ And I know there are people all down the line—can you imagine somebody who doesn’t have faith? Where do they find hope?”
After praying with the Rapiers and jumping in to help clear debris from their home, West spent a little time reflecting on the experience. “This is just one example of families all around Nashville who have had their lives completely uprooted. The reality is sinking in. What I have seen has absolutely blown me away.”
A New Perspective
West, whose new record The Story of Your Life will tell stories of real people, found fresh inspiration in helping the Rapiers and others. “This has given me new perspective as I go into the studio in the next couple of weeks to make this record. My hope is that these songs will bring healing and a message of encouragement that hit the real places of our lives that include pain like this.”
He concluded, “Seeing both SP and the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team on the ground and at work in this community was an amazing thing to witness.
“What I saw taking place was a group of people choosing to help the helpless, selflessly reaching out to folks who have lost everything. They are in need of much more than just manual labor, and the Rapid Response Team was there to bring healing to hurting hearts still dealing with the shock of their new reality.”
The Story of Your Life
Interested in Matthew West’s new project? Check out our last interview to find out more.
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