Hurricanes have always been a major part of my life in southeast Louisiana. As a child when my family decided to “ride out the storm”, I can remember filling the tub with water, taping our windows in the shape of an “X”, and parking our cars on high ground, praying the storm would pass us by. Hurricanes are a way of life that I never got used to. In the back of my mind, I am always wondering if this is the storm that will change my life forever.
Meteorologists can guess a hurricane’s path but we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. We can’t possibly know where storms will go or what to expect when they hit. We have seen the chaos and havoc these storms can have on communities. People who have been affected by hurricanes, like Katrina, identify timelines in their life as “before the storm” and “after the storm”. An impact of a hurricane can be felt for generations.
Hurricanes aren’t’ the only disasters that have us on high alert. We have seen quite a bit of devastation in the United States over the past few months with heat waves, forest fires, flooding, and earthquakes. No matter what your views are on global warming or the environment in general, you have to admit these natural disasters are more dangerous and happening more frequently, and not just in the United States, but around the world. No matter where these catastrophic events happen it is God working in His people that remind us that it is not what we lose but what we gain in our most challenging times…each other.
Matthew 25:35-40 is assurance that when we are most in need, most desperate, God is present among us through the kindness and generosity we show to one another.
Our first responders are a perfect example of God showing up for people in distress, but they are not the only ones. We have seen heroic efforts from everyday citizens going above and beyond to help the “least of these.” We have witnessed an overwhelming response of donations and support to nonprofit organizations devoted to response and recovery, like the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). We have also heard reports of everyday citizens risking their lives to rescue souls from danger and getting them to safety, even going as far as offering refuge in their own home. God is present among us!
In 2015, I had the honor of traveling to Bellagio, Italy to share my experience of recovery after Hurricane Katrina with leaders from around the world. At this convening hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Municipal Art Society, representatives from countries impacted by natural or manmade disasters told stories of pain, recovery, and hope. Each delegate was faced with the question, “What makes a community resilient?” Our conclusion regardless of ethnicity, language or region, resilient communities exhibited determination, inclusivity, and philanthropy, which is parallel to the research conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities. Resilience is about people.
We sometimes want God to shield us or protect us from harm. We pray for grace and to be spared from pain. However, God doesn’t guarantee that we won’t experience heartache. The Bible has numerous examples of good people enduring the most extreme circumstances. Sometimes the storm hits and rocks us to our core, and sometimes it spares us. If a storm tears our world apart, rest assured, just as it entered our lives, it will also pass and the skies will clear. In the aftermath, we can give thanks and know that God’s love will be living and moving through the courage of His people. When someone helps a neighbor in need, or gives without expecting anything in return, or opens their heart to the broken, we know this is God showing up for us just as He promised!
So, when we pray for safety in these most uncertain times, may we also pray for resilience. Just as one is spared by Grace, another is seeking Grace. Our faith tells us that God will show up! May we each be used as God’s hands and feet, when our neighbors need to see His presence the most.
Mrs. Sabrina N. Short is a ministry consultant specializing in community engagement and outreach. Mrs. Short has been recognized for her work with youth around social justice and youth-led community organizing. A former faith-based community organizer, with PICO National and All Congregations Together, she works closely with United Methodist Churches across the country and its national institutions advocating youth leadership in ministry, social justice and mission. She has over 15 years experience in the non-profit field, partnering with numerous organizations to serve disenfranchised communities.