I was living in New Orleans, Louisiana, when Hurricane Katrina came ashore. The experience was surreal. Personally, I escaped unharmed. My home had minimal damage. What made this a milestone in my life was the totality of the experience.
It’s hard to imagine turning the dial on the radio, and there is only one radio station on the air. All the others lost transmission for weeks following the storm. Of course with no electricity we had no access to other media. We were unable to locate relatives and friends because most telephone and cell towers were down. We had no access to buy food, medicine, fuel. Hospitals were rejecting patients to care only those most urgent and those who could be saved. A dying, elderly neighbor was sent home to well, die. Everything changed in one day.
When I was allowed to visit my home, but not stay there, troops were literally on every corner in the city and suburbs. Helicopters buzzed over my home for the one day I was allowed back in my neighborhood. My home was safe, but someone had looted the garage apartment for food.
Velvet Ashes is discussing the topic of crisis this week. I have lived through many other crisis situations in other countries, such as robberies in Honduras, being held up at gunpoint in Mexico, even being in the former Soviet Union when an American friend was investigated and subsequently arrested by the KGB. These situations were hard but not insurmountable. I am reminded of the words by the songwriter, Kathryn Scott, “there is a favor found only in adversity.” I remember the uncanny sense of peace that enveloped me at times during those days after the hurricane hit.
Even in the midst of the country’s largest natural disaster, I literally felt the power of God’s people praying for me and the others involved in this calamity.
During the spring and summer before the hurricane hit, two songs were running through my mind at odd times of the day or night. One was Bob Dylan’s standard, The Times Are A’Changin. The other tune is a lesser-known song, Dwell, a song by Casey Corum.
Now that I look back on that experience that occurred a decade ago, I think of how the Holy Spirit was preparing my heart. Had I really thought about the words that Dylan sang? I doubt it.
Come gather ’round people, wherever you roam, and admit that the water around you have grown. . .you better start swimming or you will sink like a stone, for the times they are a’changin’.
The song, Dwell, was a song I returned to often when the slow process of piecing our lives back together began. Dwell in the midst of us/ Wipe all the tears from our faces/ Dwell in the midst of us. You can have Your way .
When it really counts, the most important thing is God’s continuing abiding presence. It’s not the things, it’s not the job, it’s not even the survival of the community that matters most. It’s our connection to the ever-lasting God.
In the months that followed, I spent countless hours fixing meals for volunteers who came to the city. My church became outward-focused as it had never had before. We housed teams for months, maybe years. I don’t recall. I do recall that my months of service led me to a deeper conviction to pursue a missions call to Honduras where I lived for eight years. When a hurricane hits, whether it’s a meteorological event, or a metaphorical storm, I know two things are certain. One, change is inevitable. But in the change, we have a rock, we have a high tower, we have a God that dwells within, making a way for us.