On the first three days of the hurricane I felt silly every time someone called to check on me. We followed the colorful spiral on the weather map but all it meant out our windows was a grey sky and constant wet. The weather wasn’t even as scary as a summer thunderstorm. Events were cancelled and churches closed, but in our neighborhood it felt a little like the quiet at Christmas, with everyone huddled in their houses, focussed on their family and friends. We visited our neighbors and they visited us. We cooked for each other, played games and even held church service as families together. Our phones beeped constant flash flood and tornado alerts, there were pictures of tornadoes on facebook, and we texted our local friends back and forth, but our surroundings were so safe it felt little melodramatic to even talk about it.
This morning Kenny woke me up to tell me that he was leaving. There had been an all-call for boats and he was teaming up with two other neighbors to go “rescue people trapped in their houses.” I told him to bring granola bars. Honestly, I thought he’d be back in an hour after nothing more exciting than an trip to Lowes, so my primary prayer, fueled by selfish vanity as much as anything else, was “make him useful.” By lunch time reports of evacuees were filling my phone. I cooked every perishable food in the house and looked for places to give it away. Outside my windows there was still just a trickle of water in our gutters and a few branches blown onto the lawn. Inside my house my kids were showing the nature of man with a clarity defined by four days sequestered. At one point, when dealing with a kid’s struggle that were way beyond my pay grade I found my self really and truly jealous of Kenny. Here he was outside, in the fresh air and misting rain running about playing at hero while I remained stuck at home in the kitchen where I spend 80% of my life. I looked at my kids, who at 3:00 pm were still resisting my nagging that they brush their teeth and put on clothes and I decided we all needed to stop living for ourselves so much. I reigned them in and we spent the rest of the day working together to have clean rooms in case of evacuee guests and clean bodies in case the water goes out. We talked a lot about the self discipline it takes to live for God instead of ourselves. We were still going strong at about 5:00 when Kenny called out from the entryway. He was not just wet, but uncomfortably drenched in the way boots and jeans can only be when they’ve been underwater. When I kissed him he tasted like hard work. His phone was dead- drowned in chest high water. He had come home to change and go back out. When he returned around dusk he told us about his day.
Kenny had joined up with two other men from our neighborhood. Between the three of them they had a big truck, a john boat on a trailer, and contact with the dispatcher coordinating volunteers. Apparently there really had been a call for community assistance and when the men called in they were sent to a local hospital. They drove back roads where the water was only a few inches deep between flooded horse stables. They pulled off the highway and were able to launch the boat on an exit ramp. At the hospital flooding was putting power and backup power at risk and patients needed to be transported across the water to a site accessible by ambulances. Assisting the patients into boats and ferrying them across the flood were ordinary citizens, like my husband, who had towed their boats to the waters edge, left their trucks behind and asked how they could help. They were from the surround towns with floods of their own but also from places hours away and unaffected. There were so many people waiting with their boats to help that the patients couldn’t be brought out fast enough to use them all. In the neighborhoods around the hospital families were trying to evacuate so Kenny and the men pulled the boat right up to the front door and then all three guys climbed out of the boat to let a family with a baby get in. Then Kenny and the men walked through the water alongside the boat. In other areas the water was too strong for them to help. Currents pulled the boat along dangerously and they had to grab bushes and pull alongside people’s fences to fight the current. In one house Kenny watched a couch floating across the living room and listened as the rescued family, teenaged children included, eagerly introduced themselves and spoke gratefully of how much worse things could have been. That family got where they were going a little faster when Kenny and the men tied the john boat to a passing jet ski. Jet skis, kayaks, big boats, small boats, even those swamp boats with the big fans on back, all the way to pool floats- they were all turning out asking who they could help and the authorities directed them, allowing only boats of a certain grade into certain currents and directing shallow boats to where they were needed most.
At home now my newsfeed is full of lists compiled by others in my neighborhood- numbers to call for rescue, which shelters need what, even a list of homes in dry neighborhoods willing to take in strangers. That last list is dozens long. Out my window it is still not scary. I have power and internet and running water. My family is peacefully asleep. Less than a mile away houses are feet deep in water and tomorrow is supposed to be worse as creeks and lakes continue to rise. Kenny is supposed to try to get drive into work, down where the flooding is so bad parts of the highway have fallen off- but I still feel melodramatic saying that. Why? Because my little neighborhood is still an island of safety. I’ve got a pantry full of food and I’m ready to help whoever I can. The kids and I are all fully focused on who we can help, but I have no visible fear to remind me to worry. My house is peaceful.
As Christians we live in a world that is hostile to us. We have temptation within and trials without. When we begin to love the God who is so much more important than this world we become foreigners whose real life and home is waiting with Him in Heaven and we are suddenly at odds with this world that used to feel so comfortable. We now know the danger waiting at the end of a life which doesn’t worship God. We should see that we are living in a storm which is costing lives! And when we know our fellow humans are in danger humanity has one instinct shown by the army of soaking wet men and women who showed up on our streets today- a passion to help. If we know there is a storm threatening lives we will give up almost anything to help. We are excited, jealous even, to get our feet wet helping others and as Christians we do it from a spiritual place of perfect safety. For we have the promise that no matter what awful happens in this life when our real life begins it will overwhelm this one, making this life just the title page, easily forgotten next to the adventure and glory of our real, eternal life. This hurricane has reminded me to see the spiritual storm more so I stop trying to rest while I have the chance to offer rescue.