A storm came through last night. The early morning hours filled with alarms, sirens, tornadoes, tornado warnings, and cautions to seek shelter. Of course, your heartbeat begins to race, you worry about the wind and if your children are safe. What is going on out there? It is dark outside, and you cannot see. Fear is certainly present. We watch the news, check on one another, and we pray. In the morning, the sun rose and there was light again. We could see the damage and there was a sense of relief as many of us thought to ourselves, it could have been much worse. Even in the midst of the storm, you could almost feel the blessings. However, those blessings were indeed accompanied by heartache. As I drove to work, I saw things that were hard, like crops ruined as they laid flat in the fields. I saw trees that blocked half the road, material damage to buildings, and a lot of messes to be cleaned up in yards. I heard reports of fatalities, of lives lost and some still being searched for. My heart breaks at the destruction. No one is immune and as I pray for those first responders, for the families that have lost, I beg for their comfort and strength and I ask you to please join me. Also, in the aftermath of the storm I could not help but see some things that gave me tears of joy. First and foremost, I saw the sun pushing the clouds out-of-the-way. It was almost like God was saying I will overcome! I saw water which meant that we did indeed get some rain that was much needed. But even more so, I saw people together, working on cleaning up the mess, hauling off the debris, talking to one another, searching for the lost.
Sure, the power is out, and the cable is out, but people are outside, and relationships are being rekindled, strength is being found in one another. Phone calls were made to one another checking to make sure that people were safe that they did not need anything. Messages were going out in the middle of the night to warn people to take cover and to say I love you. The stop lights are out and even people in cars are forced to wave to one another to communicate. First responders are leaving their own families to go and work through disaster areas where hurt and trauma are very present. In doing so they are telling the broken that they are not alone. These things remind me that we are all human and in these storms of life together.
When I drive, I have a lot of time to think and I cannot help but remember that some of the very first times I experienced disaster relief type work were in the aftermath of hurricanes. There was Hurricane Hugo at Myrtle Beach, Floyd and Fran in Goldsboro. Many more in between but, I remember those storms specifically. I remember being afraid. I also remember the joy in running along in my mama and daddy’s footsteps as we went out of our own yard to help the neighbors first. We found joy in cleaning up the debris, in rebuilding not just structures but relationships as we come together as community, talking, and working to serve one another.
So, as scary as hurricanes are and, in the trauma, and pain, I hope you can see that it is an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. In it, you can find a chance to extend love to a neighbor and to give thanks for what we are blessed with.
Another reminder that I see today is that the storm does not discriminate. The storm has affected most everyone in this area, and it humbles us. It reminds us of what is important, because, you see, we are all in this together.
If you were given the gift of waking up today, the things we argued about yesterday don’t see quite as important do they?
It doesn’t matter if you wear a mask or choose not to.
It doesn’t matter what socioeconomic class you are in, what your salary is, where you work, who your parents are, how big your house is, or what your car looks like.
It doesn’t matter whether you vote Republican or Democrat or if you vote at all.
It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, or if you are a male or a female.
Your mistakes and your successes are irrelevant.
What it comes down to is that we are all here together, in one place, trying to do the best we can and needing to remember that our relationships are precious.
We all face storms and extending a simple hand to help a neighbor in need is one of the greatest gifts that you can give. Each one of us are equipped to do so in many different ways.
I thank you for letting me see some of your gifts to others as I travel today; for they have brought me joy in the aftermath of disaster.
They remind me to love others and that even in the midst of the storm God is very present THROUGH HIS PEOPLE.
I pray you are safe. I pray for the families who have experienced loss. I pray for those who are helping and responding to the disaster and I pray that you know our Lord Jesus.
For it is in HIS name we pray. -Amen