By: Curt Williams, Founder & Executive Director
We were told to expect a weak Category One storm, and that it was headed to New Orleans…then it was Biloxi, Pascagoula, the state line area, and Dauphin Island. With each updated forecast the predicted track edged eastward. We were told that it would weaken as it approached the coast.
Hurricane Sally was a frustratingly slow mover, with an average forward speed of 2 miles-per-hour. Having served at our Alabama campus the week prior and on Monday the 14th of September, we moved into a condo where we were blessed to have six days of planned vacation.
Then the experts told us that we could expect landfall on the eastern Alabama coast, and we were 100 yards from the Florida line, in Orange Beach Alabama. On the beach and in the direct path of Hurricane Sally.
Knowing that a storm was approaching, I went and bought groceries for the week, anticipating that we were going to have a couple of rainy days before the sun would come out and we could enjoy the beach. Yet early that Monday, it began to rain and blustery winds began to blow.
By sundown, the winds were growing more intense and the seas, that we watched from our 12th floor vantage point, grew angrier and angrier. By Tuesday morning it was difficult to stand on the balcony, and the eye of the hurricane was still 100 miles to the south.
We were still being told that it was a weakening Cat One. Not much to worry about.
Forecasters who had predicted that weakening, by Tuesday afternoon, were telling us that Sally was growing stronger and defying both logic and meteorological history. Throughout Tuesday night the winds grew fiercer; their howling making conversation indoors difficult. The rain, propelled by the 110 plus miles per hour winds, began first to seep and then to freely flow through the cracks and joints in the big patio doors. Large panes of ½” thick patio glass began to bow inwards and menacingly hum in tune with the wind.
Before midnight the power failed, sea birds began to hit the patio rails, and in a most disconcerting way, it was discovered that the water in the toilets had begun to flow back and forth as the building swayed.
Lighting was limited to cell phones, yet batteries began to fail. The ability to watch the storm’s approach on television ended with the power being cut. We were walking around in the dark on flooded floors surrounded by the screams of the wind, and yet as I glanced at the faces of my wife and kids, there was a bizarre calm that stood in bold contrast to what was happening all around us. They appeared to be enjoying the adventure.
The next morning, as the winds finally began to subside and the seas began a slow retreat, I looked into the eyes of my wife. I asked her, “Knowing all that you just went through, would you willingly do it again?” She did not hesitate and replied, “For sure!” I then asked my kids the same question, and they echoed their mom’s answer. Each of them affirmed that they would do it all over again.
Hours later as I contemplated these responses, I was not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of my family. Why would they willingly choose to go through a strong Category Two hurricane on the beach again? Yet the Lord interrupted my musings with His answer.
He spoke into my heart, “Curt, they had no fear because you, the father, were there. They trusted you. They watched you. They believed in you”.
This revelation stunned and humbled me. I remembered going through hurricanes as a kid, and seeing them as a grand adventure, and now realizing that I was surrounded by danger that I did not fear because my father was present. He was the leader. He was strong. He was present.
As I meditated on this situation, I thought of how I should be calm in every storm, because the Father is always present with me. I thought of how shameful it is when I doubt Him just because the wind picks up or the rains come.
I need to affirm that there is not a storm in life that threatens the Lord or lessens His care for me. We can be at peace because the Father is present. No matter how dark it gets, how loud the wind is in our ears, how high the water rises, or how hard it rains, the Father is present.
That’s a very good thing to be reminded of when it looks like it does now; like the clouds are gathering and the wind is beginning to blow. Take faith, my friends… He is present with us.