It was exactly a year ago that my family was evacuated from Tampa in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Our home was near the water and was in a mandatory evacuation zone. At that time they were expecting storm surges between 8 and 10 feet (i.e. almost as tall my house!)
We left late in the evening in hopes that we would avoid the traffic of the millions other Floridians that were also evacuating. Unfortunately, many people had the same idea. A year later, we now have Hurricane Florence quickly approaching the Carolinas. Thankfully, Denver is very far inland. Still, I can sense a heightened anxiety in our community as the hurricane approaches. In light of this, I want to share a couple of reflections that I learned from fleeing Irma.
1.I learned that many people allowed their anxiety to turn into anger or rudeness. I witnessed people shoving in stores in an attempt to get the last water. I saw people yelling at others at the gas station that were lined with 20-30 cars per pump. There were times when the storm brought out the worst in people.
Yet, I learned that many more people channeled their anxiety into positive action. One tangible way that my family experienced this was through the hospitality of others. Our initial plan was to drive to Columbus, GA to stay with friends- normally a six hour drive. When it became clear that it would take MUCH longer, then we had to find housing for one night. Some friends near Tallahassee took us in at the last minute. I will always be grateful for their hospitality.
Late the next day we made it to Columbus. Our friends in Columbus ended up housing multiple families of evacuees- some of whom they did not even know. One father was a complete stranger when his family was offered shelter after not being able to find a hotel. The man said, “My grandma has been telling me for years what Christians were like. I think I finally get it.” In times of stress, we have an option for how to respond. Let us respond with Christ’s love.
2. I learned that Scripture can be a source of comfort and peace in times of fear. I find that God often uses the Bible to speak to me in just the way I need it at a particular moment. With Irma, I found myself mediating on Psalm 46 quite a bit.
The Psalm begins in this way:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
When a storm is barreling in, and you’re not sure what is going to happen to your house (i.e. physical refuge), it is a great comfort to remember that God is our refuge and strength in times of trouble. God will always be with us, even in the most challenging of circumstances. Even if my physical possessions were lost, God would still be my constant.
This was a great comfort to me.
The Psalmist goes on…
“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”
When a natural disaster strikes, it can feel exactly as the Psalm describes; mountains shake, water foams, the earth changes. These times are a reminder of how little we can truly control. Yet, in the midst of chaos, we are given the command, “Do not fear.
Because God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble.
I know that a lot of people on the coast are in fear right now. I expect that will increase in the next couple of days. I encourage you to do a couple of proactive things as a way to help.
1. Pray for those on the coast. Pray that they will feel God’s presence near to them, even in times of great fear and anxiety. Pray for God’s peace.
2. If you know of someone who is evacuating, offer your home. Show Christian hospitality through the gift of lodging.
Together, we can show God’s love in times of trouble.
See you on Sunday!
P.S. If you need a list of emergency supplies to have on hand, go to http://hurricanesafety.org/prepare/hurricane-safety-checklists/