2017-09-19 - Lessons from Irma
On September 8, 2017, North and Middle Georgia experienced our first Tropical Storm ever. While the Caribbean Islands and South Florida sustained the most severe and long-lasting damage, we had our share. All power companies and their Mutual Assistance partners worked round-the-clock to restore people's power. Georgia Power alone had over 1000 broken poles and 500 transformers broken by the high wind gusts. There were over 200 MILES of electrical wires down. Thee were a handful of deaths, but few injuries otherwise. As I am sure many of you are, we continue to pray for not only the loved ones of the deceased - but also those whose storm damage repairs will be a long-term process of probably several years. Please also remember those in the Islands who are now being battered by Maria.
I have always believed that God teaches us through every experience. There were certainly some poignant reminders with this storm!
Our feathered friends lived out an important lesson during the 60 mph gusts. Thankfully, these winds that bent trees to 45-degree angles were not sustained - but we had them regularly for 16 hours. Through the years, we have noticed that there is normally a hierarchy at our four bird feeders (not counting hummingbird feeders). For example, when a Cardinal lands to eat, their cousin Finches will temporarily scatter, while the one who always rules the roost is the Woodpecker. But during the Storm, the feathered friends gathered together. They didn't fuss or steal from each other. They didn't judge each other, saying the hurricane was punishment for their vote for our President - the most heartless, troubling hateful comments we heard for devastated victims, who actually represented the entire political spectrum. We ALL need to pray against the consuming hatred that causes such mean-spirited, loveless comments.
Instead, the simple but effective instincts of birds caused them to react to an emergency by helping each other, by huddling TOGETHER. Our Crepe Myrtle tree, the closest tree to our front porch, was chock full of birds sharing the tree for shelter. I tried to take a picture of this inspiring and beautiful illustration, but Irma had darkened the sky too much. Other birds gathered against our windows and on the porch side of our gutter spout. It was touching to see. When there is a tragedy, when someone is in dire need, we should put politics and other disagreements aside. We are all created by God in His image, and we should help everyone in need, regardless of whether we normally agree with them about other issues.
We also were reminded of what God's word teaches us about the importance of everyone's gifts. Richard and I saw that not only in our community, but even in our own family. We were grateful that we had been warned by the National Weather Service, to expect to possibly be without power for at least a week, so that preparation entailed a comprehensive process. While I thought of things like eating frozen foods the week ahead so we wouldn't lose as much in a long power shortage (Can't use generator on fridge due to recent circuit board issues on the fridge), Richard did a couple things that hadn't occurred to me. Our water service was using a generator that at some point could give out, and in case we lost water for awhile, he filled our bathtub with water for that emergency. And in fact, one location in Georgia did temporarily have to ask customers to stop using water.
We each have our contributions to make in every situation, no matter our gifts. Some of those with the gift of Helps and Compassion gathered supplies for the sheltered evacuees in our county, checked on the frail, and helped cut up non-electrified trees. Many gave of their money to Disaster agencies that will use the money as most needed (Remember, the disaster arms of church denominations usually give 100% to direct aid.). Others with the gift of Administration organized and oversaw the processes. Some people think that due to physical limitations, they can't do anything. But that is a myth. Even people who were unable to physically assist were able to pray - and we all know that is actually the most important thing of all. The local victims needed prayer as they were dealing with damages and safety issues, the electrical linesmen and first responders needed prayers for safety (and in fact, as careful as they were, we know of two linesmen who were electrocuted during Irma). Evacuees also needed prayers while uprooted from their homes, as well as for safe travel, not running out of gas which was short along the routes to and fro, and for dealing with what they found when they went home.
Each one of us has a part to play when others hurt. The Bible teaches us to help others carry their burdens. Some of those burdens are emotional; some are physical. As Philippians 2:4 reminds us: Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
I encourage you to join me in asking God what our part is, in helping those in need.
All verses are from the New American Standard Version (NASB) unless otherwise noted.