Only days ago, Hurricane Harvey made landfall, bullying its way into the Gulf Coast and bringing a nightmare upon south Texas and Louisiana.
Though thousands of people tried to prepare, many leaving their homes for higher ground, but no one could escape its ravaging power. If the hurricane itself didn’t blow you down, the rain created flood waters that came like an unwelcome visitor to thousands of homes, businesses, vehicles, oil refineries and more.
“It was like Noah & the Great Flood, only there was no ark to save us. So God sent ordinary folks like the Red Cross, Baptist Disaster Relief, the US Coast Guard, Samaritan’s Purse, and others to help. #Harvey
Our son and his wife, who live in Houston, left the day before Harvey hit — but the trip was scheduled long before anyone knew. We breathed a sigh of relief and thanked our merciful God for protecting them. However, their weekend trip is turning into a week-long nightmare, with eight flights home to Houston canceled so far. (They left their pets at home, with a friend looking in on them… assuming they’re okay, since we haven’t heard otherwise.)
Like a silver lining, countless people and organizations have stepped in to assist flood victims. We continue to watch daily newscasts about heroic efforts to rescue stranded people. Our hearts broke seeing the plight of helpless elderly women, stranded in a flooded nursing home. Thankfully now, they are safe and dry.
Many saw the photo of “Otis” the dog, walking with a partial bag of dogfood in his mouth. Locals believe he found it behind a store that threw out broken bags.
Otis has become an icon for ‘making the best of a bad situation’.
Last Saturday I attended the memorial service of my mother’s life-long best friend, Carolyn, who succumbed to acute Leukemia. Even more sadly, Carolyn’s younger daughter, Juanita, was just killed in April of this year in a motorcycle accident, leaving behind a husband and two children still at home. Her grieving mother Carolyn had collapsed only days following Juanita’s death, and Carolyn was soon diagnosed with the illness that took her life only four months later.
Having grown up with Juanita and her sister Donita all my life, these two deaths have hit us hard. We continue to pray for Carolyn’s husband, Jim, who actually preached at his wife’s funeral – breaking down in tears many times. Jim asked me to sing as soon as I arrived at the church (with no preparation or warning… oh, my!!), so I quickly wrote the lyrics on some paper to the old song that came to mind: “Beulah Land”.
Before I sang, however, Carolyn and Jim’s youngest child, Aston, sang three songs. Adopted by the Yorks as an infant from foster care, this brave young man spoke eloquently and lovingly about his mother, calling her his hero. Through many tears, Aston recounted an inspiring and amazing conversation with his mother, only weeks before she died.
“Son, don’t despair, because God is still working.”
Carolyn spoke softly on the phone, lying on her hospital bed for eight days now, for this trip. The Leukemia had ravaged her body and her immune system, and she’d contracted a virus which left her hospitalized longer than usual, in between blood transfusions.
“I know, I know, Mom. But why do you say that, particularly today?” Aston queried, fighting back tears. He and his sister Donita and their dad Jim, along with countless friends and church members (including my parents and I) were still praying for a miraculous healing in Carolyn’s body. His mother’s response became the eulogy he spoke at her funeral August 26th, 2017.
“Aston, as I’ve laid here these eight days, I’ve spent every waking moment praying for the safety of people out there driving on the streets. I’ve prayed for ambulance workers, firefighters, police officers, and everyone out there on the roads.”
I’m sure that her daughter Juanita’s death was fresh in her mind, remembering that she’d collided with a pick-up truck, resulting in Juanita’s death. Carolyn may have had no control over her own situation, but she was determined to move Heaven and rattle the gates of Hell to prevent someone else from suffering such a loss.
“In these eight days of praying, I have not heard ONE emergency siren — not one ambulance leaving this hospital, no firetrucks, no police sirens, no life-flight helicopters coming or going — NOTHING. So I KNOW my prayers are making a difference! God IS still working!”
Aston, with shaky voice and streaming tears, recounted how all the nurses in the hospital were inspired by Carolyn’s positive attitude and gentle spirit. They said she was the best patient they’ve ever had in Grove Hospital. The town of almost 7,000 people sits amid Delaware County, with over 41,000 people, most of whom use Grove Hospital. Eight days with hearing no sirens — THAT is the power of prayers from a dying woman, full of faith in God.
Carolyn York died on August 16, 2017 — what would have been her daughter Juanita’s 48th birthday. Donita told me, “I know Mom gave Juanita an awesome birthday surprise in Heaven today!”
Devastated people in Harvey’s wake are helping other devastated people. That’s how we’re going to get through this. That’s how we get through life… turning the mess of our lives into a message of hope to others. I find great comfort in knowing that I can share God’s comfort with others, only after I’ve received that comfort from God when I went through a heartache. I can’t say, “You’ll get through this, and with faith, you’ll come out better than you went in,” if I hadn’t experienced it myself. Slowly, read these words aloud from 2nd Corinthians Chapter 1:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ…. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers.
Death, divorce, despair, disillusionment, disease, debt, doubt…. so many “D words” that I don’t like. I’ve been through all of them, and perhaps you have, too. As a Christ-follower, I am comforted by the promise that no pain is not wasted when we’re in the Master’s hands. (And yes, I’m writing a song by that title!) When God brings us through something, then we can help others through it.
“If the Lord had not been on our side, we would have been swallowed alive. When the waters of adversity might overwhelm us, and grief sweeps over our soul, have mercy on us! Have mercy on us, oh, Lord, for our help comes from You, Who made Heaven and earth…”
These lyrics are from my song, “Have Mercy on Us” (with What a Friend We Have in Jesus) on my worship album, borrowed from verses in Psalm 121, 123 and 124. I urge you to read the whole chapter. Also, enjoy a FREE download of this song, and feel free to share with others who need this prayer of hope right now.
Let’s continue to PRAY for the people of Texas and Louisiana. Let’s also GIVE to reputable relief agencies who are down there right now, serving meals, giving blankets and clothing and medicine and HOPE and LOVE. Here are some with a proven track record of service and financial accountability that I will endorse wholeheartedly:
Baptist Disaster Relief https://www.namb.net/send-relief/disaster-relief/
Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/
Samaritan’s Purse https://www.samaritanspurse.org/ (Same folks who do the Operation Christmas Child / Shoebox ministry around the world)