A month ago, September 6th, Hurricane Irma severely damaged our home and completely destroyed our cottage on the island of St John in the US Virgin Islands. Our home was our major source of income through a short term rental company. Because of the major catastrophe, which left the east end of the island completely cut off from the rest of the territory, we didn’t find out the extent of the damage for several days later. Even now, 4 weeks past, people refer to the area as ‘apocalyptic’. There are no communications via phone or internet and power is not expected to be restored for many more months.
As we reeled from the news and were just starting to comprehend its impact on our lives, another Category 5 hurricane, Maria, headed towards the Virgin Islands on the same path as Irma. We were worried sick. The islands and their people couldn’t withstand another torment to such a degree. Would this storm destroy what little we had left on St John and would it now take our our main residence and our tenants as well on St Thomas?
My life became a 24 hour prayer vigil in the days prior to Maria. I lay awake at night, asking God to spare our property, our community, our church family (The St Thomas Reformed Church). I walked for hours listening to hymns, praising and praying. All the hymns and praise to God were a wonderful release of worry and stress.
The songs which I have known since childhood were a great source of strength. Such as, “BE STILL MY SOUL”, “HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW”, ‘WHEN PEACE LIKE A RIVER”, and, “ON CHRIST THE SOLID ROCK I STAND” were great comfort. These are Biblical truths I have grown up with. But had they really ever been challenged? A nonChristian friend of mine asked me years ago, “Chris, you seem to have such a strong faith, have you really ever been tested and challenged?” At the time, I told him no, not really. But I figured one day I would be. Well, I was about to find out.
It wasn’t until I heard on my iPod while walking, the hymn, THE WONDROUS CROSS that I rediscovered the crux of the matter for me. The hymn was written by Isaac Watts in 1770. There is no particular special story behind the hymn but, what makes it unique is the particular beauty of its language and imagery and the power with which it highlights the most significant event in human and personal history. (Tim Challies @Challies Blog.)
When I survey the wondrous Cross, on which the Prince of Glory died.
My richest gain, I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord, that I should boast, save in the depths of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most I sacrifice them to His blood.
It occurred to me, was I willing to let go of all the material things we had invested? All the hard work we had spent over the years creating a lifestyle for ourselves blown away in a mighty wind. Could I/would I, let it go and trust God? And why did I have such fear to do so?
Hurricane Maria came and went the next day creating more destruction on our islands and then moved on to Puerto Rico where millions more people were displaced and left with nothing. Our main house was spared but, we still gulp deeply when we think of what our community is going through being set back from any progress they might have made after the first torment.
I’ve recently been listening to a blog, again on my iPod, which I downloaded several years ago. I wasn’t even aware that it was there… just accidentally came upon it. Beth Moore’s EAT, PRAY, LOVE. It’s a three part series which you can find online.
The bottom line for me was, I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV)
The Message version says, I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!
And so, knowing that we are surrounded by an unfathomable love, we move on. We’re going back in just a few weeks. Back, to a hurting community. Back to picking up the pieces of our own lives. Back to trying to help those that have so much less than ourselves.
All the while, we know we are going with a God that loves us beyond comprehension, that will give us the strength not just for ourselves, but filled up, shaken down, over flowing, with plenty of reserve to share with our neighbour. (Luke 6:38)
My husband and I will cherish your prayers for us and our community. I will not be able to respond or post anything on this site for some time. But, knowing this is a dialogue among Christian sisters, I thank you for your support and for the blessing that this has been for me.