Just as we reach the one-year anniversary of the disastrous storms in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, here we are again. Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the East Coast and coming to my own backyard in North Carolina, where both Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are headquartered.
More than 1 million people face a mandatory evacuation. The governors in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland declared states of emergency. President Donald Trump has issued federal emergency declarations for the Carolinas.
Today, I was struck by how immense these storms can be – with some speculating the water dropped on the Carolinas could measure in the trillions of gallons. Some news outlets have said the flooding could be of “biblical proportions,” with 40 inches of rain possible in some locations.
Of course, people are buying every last loaf of bread, boarding up windows, putting sandbags around property, and loading children and pets and whatever else will fit into their vehicles and heading for higher ground.
People worry and fear the worst for their property and possessions, and rightly so. Many may return to find destruction and ruin.
But they don’t have to find despair.
As a Christian, I want people to know God loves them and hasn’t forgotten them. A lot of people think when a storm comes that maybe God is mad at them, and He’s not. We share this simple, yet profound truth as we minister in crisis situations.
Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are already ministering to people who have fled to evacuation centers. And as soon as the storm has passed, they will be going into hard hit areas with our Samaritan’s Purse teams who will be responding to the physical needs.
We don't run from disasters – we run to them. We go to help people in Jesus' Name. We work all over the world like this. And in every heartbreaking situation, I hear people from all walks of life say: “We’re just glad we have our lives and each other,” and, “My faith in God is the one thing that’s giving me hope.”
Storm. Flood. Fire. Tornado. Disease. Famine. War.
No matter the calamity, no matter the outcome, I want people who are suffering to know that God is their “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
You see, God’s not just there for us when things are going well, or when we still have a home. He’s there when the going is tough and the rug has been ripped out from under our feet – or soaked in the floodwaters.
And God uses people to bring hope and healing in times of trouble. Too often, especially here in America, we are guilty of seeing what divides us more often that what unites us: our common, intrinsic value as God’s creation, highly valued and greatly loved by Him.
Every time I go out to a wrecked home where our volunteers are helping begin the recovery process, I am privileged to see that love shared and human dignity affirmed, often through tears, smiles, and sweaty hugs among hard-working people from all over the country.
When you’re hurting, or are in a time of uncertainty, or don’t know where to turn, I want to encourage you to first turn upward and ask God for His help. He is always there. Then, turn to your left and right, find the people around you – some who you may not have met until this storm – and flash them a smile, give them a word of encouragement, and most of all, reach out with a helping hand.
As Hurricane Florence makes landfall and thousands huddle in makeshift shelters, hotel rooms, and family members’ homes, let’s pray for safety and give thanks for what we do have – the love of God and a great country filled with compassionate people who rally behind those who are hurting.
And then, once the wind and rain have passed, we’ll get to work – rebuilding what is broken.