I have tried twice to post on Facebook a message of support for those in the path of Hurricane Matthew, but it seems to get lost in the cybersphere, so I have decided to expand my post and turn it into a blog and see what happens. It started when I saw a message from Dr. Rick Lance, the great leader of Alabama Baptists as he offered a prayer for the safety of the men and women of Haiti as the hurricane made landfall. I echoed his sentiments and added my own comments. This is what I said:
“Having been in the path of many such storms, I am praying for those who find themselves waiting to see where Hurricane Matthew is headed. Just remember that whether the storm is headed your way or you are in the midst of it, Jesus is able to stand and say, “Peace be still.” The question is whether or not you are in the boat with Him.”
It is probably best that no one saw this original post because it could have been taken the wrong way. So let me take this opportunity to explain. I have been in the path of many such storms. It started in the early 60s. I was just a child when Hurricane Dora pounded the Northeast Coast of Florida, but I made it on television as my mother carried me to safety. I cannot begin to recount the number of storms that brushed the coastline or made landfall. Then I decided to go to college in Mobile, Alabama. Fortunately, there were no storms during our time there, but guess where we went to seminary! That’s right! New Orleans, Louisiana. I will never forget the Sunday morning as I worked for the Campus Police for the New Orleans Seminary, and I was tracking Hurricane Elena. Our second child, Ashley, had just been born. Elena had played around in the Gulf of Mexico for a few days, and we had just breathed a sigh of relief because she was headed away from New Orleans. Then she decided to head our way and made landfall in Mississippi.
There were several such storms: Opal, Erin, Danny, Georges. Categories one, two, and 3. We stayed right there on the Gulf Coast through them all. Gulf Shores, Alabama. Bon Secour, Alabama. Then came the big ones in 1995. Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. We knew they were going to be bad. We watched the weather reports. We heard the worst case scenarios. We received the phone calls from the Emergency Management Agency that basically told us that if we had answered the phone we were idiots and had signed our death warrants or something to that affect. But after much prayer, Sonya and I decided to stay right where we are for several reasons. We knew that the house we were in was solidly built. If any house in Bon Secour was going to survive, it would. We knew that we had church members who would never evacuate and would need us after the storm, and if we left, it might be weeks before we could get back into the community. And we knew that if He chose to do so, Jesus could stand up at any moment and say, “Peace be still!”
I will never forget that night as Hurricane Ivan came with all of its might, we pulled our mattress into our hallway by our stairwell, turned on our portable radio, and never heard the wind. The only way we knew anything was happening was that our storm door kept rattling. And when it stopped rattling, we got up, and looked outside. The eye of the storm was right over us. It was as if Jesus Himself had stood up and said, “Peace be still.” It was amazing. It was then that we saw that one pine tree had gently lay down on our carport causing little damage, and the tree behind our bedroom had chosen to fall away from our house. Ironically, the two trees had fallen in opposite directions. Unfortunately, the powerlines were disconnected from the house, so we were without direct power for 10 days, so we ran extension cords from the church and lived on our carport during that time. Jeff Foxworthy would have been proud. But my point is this: Whether you are in the storm or the storm is heading your way, Jesus is still able to stand and say, “Peace be still.” Just be sure that you are in His boat.