I always said I would never move to Florida because they have hurricanes there. Then God calls me to follow Him to the Philippines, a tropical island ring-of-fire country on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Typhoons (as hurricanes are known in Asia) are not foreign to these parts. Then God calls us to a small island called Catanduanes. In conversations with Filipinos from other parts of the country, a reference to Catanduanes is almost always met with a, “Oh! They have a lot of typhoons there!”
When we first moved here some of our World Team field mates told of a typhoon that left them without power for two or three months. I secretly prayed and hoped and wished and begged that that would
never happen to us. And by God’s grace to us it hasn’t…until now.
The beautiful thing is that even though it has happened to us now, God’s graces are around every corner. Rainbows of His faithfulness shining into my heart in more ways I can count.
It started months ago with an email from my best friend, Mandi. She wanted to spend Christmas with us. At the time, I thought the Lord was sending her to help me through the stress of a provincial Filipino Christmas (which she did), but I didn’t know until Boxing Day that He had really sent her to get me through a Christmas typhoon. She was a rock for me, even when I knew she was nervous. We were nervous together. In cleanup the two days following the storm she worked like our house was her own home. She helped mother my children with the same discipline and grace that I would want to come from myself. She cried with me as we sang worship songs through the storm, laughed with me as we slipped and slid all over the house as we worked the following day to get the water out, and built me up as we took a break on her last day with us, reminiscing about college, remembering God’s goodness to us, talking theology, confessing and loving and being friends.
God’s grace to her and us is evident to us today in that her originally scheduled flight went out without a hitch, and she made it to our World Team Guest House without a problem. She’ll make it home when she expected, with stories and experiences to tell!!
God’s grace went before us as we did storm prep Christmas Eve, expecting a brownout that didn’t come until Christmas Day. We were then able to turn our thoughts to storing our electronics and important documents in waterproof bags so that we could get out of the house quickly, if necessary. A preparation that proved wise, as water splashed and leaked and seeped and blew through every crevice of our house during the worst of the storm, making it literally rain inside. At one point water was coming in from the top of the door, not to mention the unsealable windows.
God graciously sent the storm in the early night hours, instead of in the middle of the night, when we might have fallen asleep in our beds upstairs, thinking we would be safe enough, only to be surprised and potentially injured by the storm’s dangerous intensity.
God’s grace glowed in the face of Josiah as he laughed and giggled through the storm because his sweet friend Sandra was with us, as her mom felt this would be the safest place for her. Sandra understood the danger ahead of us and was afraid for her mom’s life, as were we, but her presence here quieted the soul of our son, a grace for which I was truly grateful. His four-year old heart was terrified of bad weather after Yolanda three years ago. To have him go through a worse storm than that and come out smiling was a gift.
Even more, Sandra fell asleep rather early, and then slept hard until after we were awake the next morning. I did not have to calm a terrified child through the night through worried and faltering words regarding the safety of her mother. We were able to go out while she was still asleep, confirm that her mother and the rest of her family were well, and return with good news to a happy child, who played with our kids the whole day as we worked to make our home liveable again.
God’s grace rested in my arms as our youngest fell asleep, exhausted from all the Christmas visitors we had had earlier in the day. She slept through the whole thing, and then all through the night.
God’s grace went before us yet again in that we had had storm shutters built a few years before. If we had not had them on our windows, we would have certainly had broken glass flying in the only “safe” room for us to be in. Our first expectations of waiting out the storm in our upstairs because we expected downstairs flooding were quickly dashed as the winds rose and the pressure of the storm made doors stick and light fixtures rattle in the ceiling. The door to our roof blew open and was quickly abandoned as the intensity and seriousness of the storm settled in our hearts. We went to the only corner of the house where we had two walls of safety, one of them only being safe because of those storm shutters.
As the waters rose from below and rained on us from above, and the winds howled and our ears popped from the pressure, we told the story to our children of the scared disciples in the boat. I entered the fear of the disciples, but I, unlike they, knew that Jesus could calm a storm. Edwin and I tag-teamed the story so both our English-speaking children and our Tagalog-speaking friend could understand that even when we’re afraid, even when we think Jesus doesn’t know our trouble or our fear, He is there. He was with the disciples, He was just silent. But when He arose, when He spoke, the waves and the wind listened to His voice. “Do you believe it, children, that Jesus is with us? Do you believe that He hears us?” Wide eyes responded a serious, “Yes.” “Do you believe it, Sandra, that that same Jesus is with your Momma?” “Opo.” (“Yes, Ma’am.”)
Yes, Jesus, I believe it, too, my heart said. You are with us. You are with us in this storm. You are with our loved ones who are in weaker houses than ours. You are with us. You are with them. Yes, Jesus, I hear you, and I believe.
God’s grace was with us as we heard metal scraping across the street. Whose roof just passed our house? … As the shutters that were keeping us safe rattled against the windows. What is banging against our house? … As metal and trees and limbs and plants and glass and … what else? … banged against street and house and fence and wall, we wondered, “Is our car ok? Is our motorcycle ok? What about our neighbor’s house? It’s only made of wood. Oh! We wish they had stayed with us! Oh Lord, protect our people! Oh Lord, save them! Save us!”
When the storm passed we took a look outside. The electric pole in front of our house was leaning over, draping power lines in front of our house. Our gate and fence were completely flattened, our bamboo kubo (like a gazebo) leaning against our car. But our car was fine! If it had been parked any closer to the kubo, it may have been damaged, but as it was, it was merely holding up a bit of the thatch roof that had fallen. No flat tires. No broken glass. Grace. Even more, its muddy bottom, which had needed a pressure washing, was completely clean.
The next day we had no gas to cook with, as it was used up as the last leftover was heated for supper Christmas night. We needed to use a small grill that was in the kubo. The grill was located holding up the kubo! And the kubo had served an excellent purpose of covering and sheltering a week’s worth of trash that would have otherwise blown all over the yard. These small graces mean a lot when you have no running water or electricity.
This storm, Nina, was apparently a leader, and had recruited all the ocean’s clouds to her efforts to destroy us, and for two days we had blue skies and hot sun, something a water-logged community needs when it’s drying out its houses. Grace.
As of yet we have not heard of a single casualty. Amazing. In a category storm of this magnitude, with so many people living in bamboo and wood houses, and with as many poles, trees, and houses as are down and in ruins, it is amazing that no one perished. Grace.
Power will be out for months. Water hasn’t been restored to our town. But we are whole, with no injuries. Our home is in tact and already clean, although still a little unorganized. Our neighbors are fine, our church members are ok, and we have the ability to acquire resources for the most challenged.
At one time I would have described this scenario as one of my worst nightmares, but God has brought me through a suffering road that has prepared my heart for this current trial. What would have been suffering to me a few years ago is today a trial, but not suffering. Like the song, “Oceans,” that says, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me; Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, that my faith would be made stronger in the presence of my Savior”… I call upon the Lord to take me to and into the hard things so that I can lean ever more intently into His goodness, which becomes even more evident and profound in the midst of trial. In the boat the disciples were witnesses to a miracle. But they had to be in and go through the storm first. And when the sun came out, I bet they saw rainbows.
I’m seeing spiritual rainbows all over the place. Kisses to my spirit from a God who loves me so much He takes me to live in typhoon alley, then gives me storms, and carries me through them.
“The LORD thundered in the heavens and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, and lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them. Then the channels of water appeared, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy…” -Psalm 18:13-17
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