God's Presence in the Storms
The pictures are incredible, the devastation unfathomable. There is Market Street, deserted, awash in mud and debris. Boats litter the streets of Isle of Palms like a child’s playthings carelessly thrown aside. The Ben Sawyer bridge, which I have driven over so many times, is at odd angles to the water, no longer connecting land to land. Doors and roofs are gone. Houses are washed from their foundations. Cars sit in tall trees where the storm surge left them. Aerial photos show something like a war zone. It is hard for me to imagine that this was a reality for the people of the Lowcountry during Hurricane Hugo.
I was only a child when Hugo hit, growing up in Kentucky. As I recall, we had some bad weather as a result of the massive storm, even so far inland, but I can hardly relate to the stories I hear from those who survived the worst of it in this area. I ask myself, “What must that have been like? And what I would have done if I had been here? What if another big one hits now?” Since I have been here, every time the weather report tells of a possible hurricane forming in the Atlantic, I hear locals recall what happened over twenty years ago, and tell me that we are due for another “big one” anytime now. But in reality, no one can say with any certainty whether that will happen this year, or next year, or another twenty years from now. We just don’t know.
I do believe, though, that if or when it happens, there are a few things we can count on to be true, just as they were then. Many of the stories I have heard from Hurricane Hugo survivors tell of people coming together to help one another through adversity. Yes, there were a few who tried to take advantage, driving up prices on necessary items or outright stealing. But there were many more who shared what they had with their neighbors, or who came from far away to bring help to complete strangers. Times of crisis often bring out the best in people somehow, and I believe that whenever the next storm, literal or figurative, comes into our lives, we can count on the kindness of fellow human beings. Another theme I heard running through many of the stories was survivors leaning on their faith. Prayer was a particularly important resource for countless people who felt helpless in the face of rising waters and the devastation that followed. They trusted that there was Someone greater than themselves whom they could call on, and their belief that God was listening and cared what they were going through was a source of strength in dark days. That is just as true for us today, whatever storms we may be facing.
God, when the winds are howling and the waters rising around us, our most primal instinct seems to be to call on you. Give us the strength we need when such times come, and help us to reach out to our brothers and sisters in harm’s way as well. And forgive us when we forget to call on you during calmer days. We need your love just as much on those days, too. Thank you for always being here. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent