Though I have no personal experience with a hurricane, I will never forget the day a mile-wide tornado mangled Mississippi and killed ten people.
On April 24, 2010, my husband and I were outside planting flowers in the sunshine. There wasn’t a hint of bad weather around us. Fortunately, my mother was visiting and she was watching our nine-month-old when my best friend from two hours away called panicking. “Where is Mama Bobbie? Is she okay? A tornado just hit Chester!”
We knew something serious had to have happened for the news station to even mention Chester, since it’s such a tiny community. We called my grandmother several times. No answer. My mom and I packed up the baby, while my husband rounded up a chainsaw crew. Mom and I made the thirty-minute drive in record time. As we arrived at the first road that leads to Chester, the workers told us there was no way to enter. The road was completely blocked. We nervously approached the next road a few miles down, where the officer told us no one was allowed in. I pleaded with him and told him my grandmother’s name. “I have to get to her,” I said.
I’ll never forget the sorrow that fell upon his face. He motioned for me to pass and said, “Be careful, okay. Tell her I’m sorry.”
Our hearts sank. Chester had always been like Mayberry. It was one of the most perfect places to grow up. My most treasured memories, the only place I called home, and my very best friend were just down that road and we had no idea what we’d be driving into. We thanked him and sped away.
For several miles, we were the only car on the road. When we rounded the last curve, emergency vehicles with their lights on lined the road. My grandmother’s home couldn’t be seen. Every tree in her yard was lying on top of her house or twisted up on the ground. Chester was unrecognizable. Due to debris and numerous vehicles blocking the driveway I had to park a distance away, unload my son, and work my way around the mess. So many trees had fallen that I had to walk behind her neighbor’s house, cut through a pasture, and then approach her house from the backyard. I wept as I saw her storage sheds leveled. My grandfather’s barn was missing a roof. Our Christmas decorations, our precious memories, were scattered everywhere.
The back of the house had been smashed by trees. The front had damage as well, but her house was still standing and I could see the entrance. I held my son tightly and ran for the door. Before I could open it, my sweet grandmother met me at the door as she had for twenty-three years, smiling. “Why are you crying? I’m fine. Don’t worry.”
The months that followed were hard. The quiet, peaceful Chester we once knew had been transformed into what looked like a war zone. Generators ran all through the night. The familiar houses where our cousins and aunts and uncles lived all had blue tarps on what was left of their roofs. Everywhere you looked there was devastation.
Thankfully, Mama Bobbie had insurance. Even when she didn’t have the extra money, she always found a way to pay her monthly premium “just in case she ever needed it.” However, catastrophic events had never happened in Chester, and she never dreamed she’d be dealing with tornado damage. For a time, she was misplaced and had to move in with family. There were many things we mourned over, because they were unsalvageable. But she never lost her faith or her smile. The debt she paid her insurance company over the years paid off and she was able to rebuild. The stained carpet that had needed replacing became hardwood that she had always wanted. The walls that were painted white decades before and stained with fingerprints, were repainted with a color. The roof that had needed repatching but she couldn’t afford, was replaced.
More than that, though, my grandmother was blessed because she had assurance. She knew that “if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1).”
As we assessed the situation, we saw loss. She saw life. We saw despair, she saw deliverance! She loved her Savior and knew no matter the size of the storm or the despair that came with it, He had paid her debt and she could rest in Him.
Two years ago, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that claimed her life eleven days after the diagnosis. While we were devastated, she would still say, “Stop crying. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
Again, amidst what seemed a disaster to us, she saw life, deliverance, and hope. She could see her Savior.
Many victims of Hurricane Harvey and the tornados that followed, do have insurance. Though the process will be long and hard, they will pick up the pieces and eventually rebuild. However, there will be some without insurance and their road will be much more difficult.
Many victims have also have assurance, but sadly others do not. My sincere prayer is that those who have that assurance will remember that as they go through deep waters, God promises to be there (Isaiah 43:2). The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8).
For those without the assurance of a hope that is free to all who believe, I pray through this tragedy, they will come to know the Lord who is their refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Unlike insurance, they cannot be rejected for any reason. We are promised through this blessed assurance that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…