Changed Forever: The Florida Panhandle in the Wake of Hurricane Michael

Tropical Weather
(Associated Press: Mexico Beach, Florida)

(Update: Friday, October 12, 2018)
As many of you know, I was born and raised in Panama City, Florida with many friends and family still there. However, the scene there now is more like a “war zone.” It’s much worst than most people realize. I’ve been in constant communication (counseling & prayer) with many in the Panhandle who have lost homes and businesses from Hurricane Michael. It’s beyond heartbreaking.

Imagine coming back from fleeing this monster hurricane only to discover the worst shock  of your life; finding your home and/or business totally destroyed like a bomb had exploded it into rubble?

In Panama City

The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews struggling to enter stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind.

Gov. Rick Scott said the Panhandle awoke to “unimaginable destruction.”

“So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything,” he said.

The full extent of Michael’s fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach with roads blocked by debris or water. An 80-mile (130-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route, was closed.

Video from a drone revealed some of the worst damage in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). Many meteorologists claim we had wind gusts close to 185 mph. Certainly, it was hurricane of catastrophic proportions never encountered in the history of Northwest Florida.

Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, leaving concrete slabs in the sand. Rows and rows of other homes were rendered piles of splintered lumber. Entire roofs were torn away in the town of about 1,000 people, now a scene of utter devastation.

State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of Michael. More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in. But emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings.

National Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 survivors Wednesday night, and more rescue crews arrived Thursday. But the fate of many residents was unknown.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband searched for the elderly mother of a friend. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards (meters) from the Gulf and thought she would be OK. The home was found smashed, with no sign of the woman.

“Do you think her body would be here? Do you think it would have floated away?” McPherson asked.

Linda Marquardt, 67, rode out the storm with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach. When the house filled with storm surge water, they fled upstairs. “All of my furniture was floating,” she said. “”A river just started coming down the road. It was awful, and now there’s just nothing left.”

As thousands of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical teams spread out, the governor pleaded with people in the devastated areas to stay away because of hazards such as fallen trees and power lines.

“I know you just want to go home. You want to check on things and begin the recovery process,” Scott said. But “we have to make sure things are safe.”

More than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.

The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricane’s landfall, mostly from coastal homes. Nine people had to be rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of a home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

In Panama City, many homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Roofs had been peeled off. Aluminum siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees. Hundreds of cars had broken windows. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet (7 meters) high.

In neighboring Panama City Beach, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford reported widespread looting of homes and businesses. He imposed a curfew and asked for 50 members of the National Guard for protection.

The hurricane also damaged hospitals and nursing homes in the Panama City area, and officials worked to evacuate hundreds of patients. The damage at Bay Medical Sacred Heart Hospital included blown-out windows and a cracked exterior wall though no patients were hurt.

The state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which has a section for the criminally insane, was cut off by land, and food and supplies were being flown in, authorities said. All phone communication was cut off to the complex of nearly 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff, leaving emergency radios as their only link out.

A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree, and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia died when the winds picked up a carport and dropped it on her home. One of the carport’s legs punctured the roof and hit her in the head. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his car.

Former Hurricane Michael was a post-tropical cyclone and had sped out over the open Atlantic early Friday, but there will be nothing quick about Florida’s recovery from the devastation it left behind. The storm has also brought heavy rains and flash flooding to hurricane-weary parts of North and South Carolina and Virginia.

High winds, downed trees and power lines, streets inundated by rising waters and multiple rescues of motorists from waterlogged cars played out in spots around Virginia and neighboring North Carolina.

One of Michael’s survivors said his city “looks like an atomic bomb” hit it. Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, Florida, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph winds and a storm surge of 9 feet.

Michael was the one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to make landfall on the U.S. mainland. The storm has been blamed for at least six deaths. Florida officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm.

As of late Thursday night, some 1.5 million homes and businesses in the Southeast had no electricity.

One-time Category 4 Hurricane Michael was a post-tropical cyclone moving across the Atlantic early Friday, the National Hurricane Center said. But people in the Florida Panhandle were only beginning to deal with the destruction in its wake.

Michael is Not Done Yet

The National Hurricane Center said early Friday Michael was getting stronger as it was transitioning into a post-tropical storm. It still had damaging winds and was generating “life-threatening flash flooding … over portions of North Carolina and the southern mid-Atlantic” states, the center said.

Updated Power Outage Numbers

There are over 1.5 million without power in six states as of 10 p.m. Thursday, officials said.

A breakdown by state of the power outages. All numbers are approximate:

326,691 customers without power in Florida
37,966 customers without power in Alabama
133,333 customers without power in Georgia
92,000 customers without power in South Carolina
731,596 customers without power in North Carolina
271,487 customers without power in Virginia

Some Floridians return to find homes destroyed

Deirdre Hawthorne and her family rode out the storm with more than 200 other people in a shelter, CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste reports. On her way home, she said she was filled with “dread.” She has called Bristol, Florida, home for the last 18 years.

CBS News was with her when she saw her house for the first time. Somehow it was still standing beneath a twisted knot of fallen trees. Her daughter Amanda had to find another way into the house.

Amanda said she was “devastated, scared, happy.”

A tree happened to fall the other way, narrowly missing their home. But not everyone was so lucky.

Concluding Thoughts

Fortunately, our family was spared by the mercy of God, but many were not. Please continue praying for all the relief efforts going on now by many Christian organizations and also road clearing and construction crews in this massive cleanup going on right now.

The worst hurricane on historical record has just left it’s scar on the beautiful NW Florida tourist Panhandle. It will be a long time before things will ever be “back to normal,” if ever.

See my updated post on Facebook today for (CBS) aerial coverage of Panama City and Mexico Beaches extensive damage from Hurricane Michael.

Thanks again friends for all your prayers,

David Crews

Too Deep for Words

Woman Suffering From Depression Sitting On Bed And Crying

Likewise the Spirit of God also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. — Romans 8:26

Has there ever been a time when you just didn’t know how to pray about some kind of challenge, or when you were in a predicament and you didn’t know how to get out of it? Maybe you’ve come before the Lord and prayed, “Father, I’m not even sure if I know what the desires of my heart are. Please help me pray.”

We all experience moments like these at one time or another. That’s why I want to share with you about the Holy Spirit’s responsibility toward us regarding prayer. We find a wealth of information about this in Romans 8:26.

Romans 8:26 begins, “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought….”

Pastor & Greek Expositor Rick Renner writes….that word “helps” is extremely important because it conveys the idea of real partnership and cooperation and paints the picture of two individuals working together to get the job done. The Greek word translated “helps” is actually a compound of three Greek words. The first word is sun, meaning to do something in conjunction with someone else. The second word is anti, which means against. The third word is lambano, which means to take or to receive. When these three words are joined, the new word, sunantilambano, means to take hold of something with someone else, gripping it together as tightly as possible, and throwing your combined weight against it to move it out of the way.

For instance, suppose you walk out of your front door one morning and discover that someone has placed a huge boulder in the middle of your driveway during the night. You walk over and push on that boulder to move it out of your way, but it’s too heavy and you can’t budge it. Then you try to move it from the other direction, but no matter how much you tug and pull, you can’t get the job done by yourself. So what do you do? You call a friend and ask him for help. He comes over, grabs hold of that boulder with you, and together the two of you press against it with all your strength until you have moved the boulder out of the way.

This Greek word sunantilambano, translated “helps,” powerfully conveys this same idea of partnership and cooperation to remove an obstacle. It tells us that the Holy Spirit literally becomes one with us in the task of removing every obstacle. In the midst of our weaknesses when we are inadequate to get the job done, the Holy Spirit says, “Let me grab hold of that hindrance with you, and you and I will push against it together until it is moved completely out of your way.”

In this way, prayer becomes a twofold partnership between you and the Holy Spirit. When that really becomes a revelation to your heart — when you realize that your prayers are not something you’re responsible for alone — it will forever change your prayer life.

Verse 26 goes on to say, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities….” It is the Greek word asthenia, which would better be translated “weaknesses.” It is used to describe people who are sickly or ailing in their bodies, minds, or emotions. Frequently it is also used to describe people who are spiritually weak.

Thus, we see that the Holy Spirit comes to help us because we are asthenia. We are simply too weak — physically, mentally, spiritually — and by ourselves we don’t have what it takes to get the job done. This is why we need our Partner to help us. We simply cannot pray like we need to by ourselves. So the Holy Spirit comes to assist us in prayer, throwing His weight against our weaknesses to remove them from our lives. The truth is, according to this verse, we cannot remove anything from our lives without the Holy Spirit’s assistance. And that is why He comes to bear this responsibility for us, assisting us in removing anything in our lives that is ailing — whether it is frailty in the body, a sickly mental state, or a weakness in our spiritual walk.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit is willing to become a Partner with me to remove those weaknesses when I’m not able to remove them by myself!

Romans 8:26 continues, “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought….” In other words, we just don’t have the “know-how” when it comes to prayer. We confront situations in which we simply don’t know how to accurately view or pray about a difficult situation or decision we’re facing.

This verse says we know not “what” we should pray. That word “what” is a Greek word ti, which depicts a very little thing. This tells us that we don’t know the fine points, the hidden problems, the intricate details of what is involved in the matter we’re praying about. Left to ourselves, we simply don’t have the ability to see the whole picture in a comprehensive view. We don’t have the know-how to deal with the smallest details and the entirety of possible challenges and problems that might arise regarding the situation.

Is there a specific way to pray about each instance that comes into your life that will remove every obstacle and foil the enemy’s strategies against you in that situation? The next phrase in verse 26 sheds some light on that question: “…For we know not what we should pray for as we ought….” That word “ought” comes from the Greek word dei, which means necessary. Thus, this phrase refers to something that musbe a certain way. So this part of verse 26 could be translated, “…We do not know how to pray according to the needas is necessary to pray, or as that need exactly demands.”

Some needs demand a different kind of prayer. And this verse here says that without the Holy Spirit’s cooperation in prayer, we don’t know how to pray as each need demands. But thank God, His Spirit comes to remove our weaknesses and to help us in our inadequacy to know what to pray!

How does the Holy Spirit actually help us? We know from the word “helps” that He partners with us in prayer, grabbing hold of the obstacle and pushing against it in conjunction with us to remove that satanic blockade. Now let’s look at the very end of verse 26 to learn more about how He helps bear the responsibility in prayer for us: “…But the Spirit itself [Himself ] makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

The word “intercession” is an interesting word. It’s the Greek word huperentugchano, which means to fall into with. It is the picture of a person who comes upon someone who has fallen into some kind of quandary. Upon discovering the trapped person’s dilemma, he swiftly swings into action to rescue and deliver the one who is in trouble. This word huperentugchano also carries the idea of coming together in experience or meeting with. Finally, it can mean to supplicate, which denotes a rescue operation in which one snatches and pulls a person out of imminent danger. So we could translate the phrase, “the Spirit itself makes intercession for us” this way: “The Spirit Himself falls into our situation with us”“the Spirit Himself meets us in a common experience”; or “the Spirit Himself supplicates for us, rescuing us from our weaknesses.”

Here we gain more insight into the way the Holy Spirit comes to your aid. As you’re walking through life, things may seem to be going fine. But then the devil digs one of his holes in the path ahead of you that you don’t even know is there. You take a step, and before you know it, you fall headlong into the hole. Now you’re all scuffed up, covered with dirt and bruises, trapped at the bottom of a pit.

You can do one of two things at this point. You can feel sorry for yourself and stay at the bottom of that pit — or you can say, “Holy Spirit, this is where You come in. I don’t know how I got here, and I don’t know how to get out of here. I need Your help!”

So let’s say you choose the second option. What does the Holy Spirit do after He meets you in your common experience at the bottom of the hole? He begins to supplicate for you — to move on your behalf to rescue you. When you say, “Holy Spirit, I need You to help me,” He answers, “That’s what I’m here for. I am here to bear the responsibility of helping you in prayer.” And there at the bottom of that pit, the Holy Spirit takes hold together with you in prayer against the hindrances that are preventing your deliverance.

Have you ever prayed when you’re in the pits? Your zeal is not exactly at a high level at that point. You might feel discouraged and confused about why you fell into that hole in the first place. You’re bruised and dirty, and you may have spent most of your prayer time voicing your negative emotions about the whole situation to the Lord. But then the Holy Spirit meets you right where you are in the midst of your trouble and begins to help you in your weakness. He says, “I’m here with you. I’m going to grab hold of this problem together with you, and we’re going to press against it until it moves out of your life.”

All of a sudden, something rises up on the inside of you, and you sense a renewed strength to go after that problem in prayer. You throw back your shoulders, lift up your head, and pick up the spiritual weapons God has given you to win this battle and overcome the enemy’s strategies in your life!

What just happened to you? The Holy Spirit grabbed hold of your weaknesses and helped you push them out of the way! This is His responsibility. And He’ll keep pressing with you against that problem you’re facing until it is moved out of your life and you’re out of that pit for good!

Aren’t you thankful for this wonderful work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Whatever challenges you’re facing in these uncertain times, of this you can be certain: Right now He is making intercession on your behalf, and He’s not going to stop until every obstacle to your victory has been moved out of the way!

If you’ve been feeling like you’ve fallen into a pit and you don’t know how to climb out, just remember who’s down there with you, ready to help. Then begin to pray, knowing that the Spirit of God will make you strong where you are weak and help remove every obstacle that hinders your forward progress in Him.

A Deeper Satisfaction

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I can vividly recall a time in my life when spiritual things were not very high on my list of personal priorities. At that time, I didn’t realize that we are all born with a “spiritual vacuum” inside our hearts and this vacuum can only be filled by God in Christ. Little wonder that everything I tried to use to fill that “inner spiritual void” simply could not bring the deeper satisfaction and fulfillment I craved, no matter how hard I tried.

Yet, God in His love, patience, mercy and grace let me exhaust my creative ideas for living life on my terms until finally I keenly realized I had no place to run but straight into the arms of our loving Heavenly Father. Knowing “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sins upon His cross,” was enough to persuade me to re-prioritize my entire life and start re-orienting all things toward eternity, not just this temporal world chock full of trivial pursuits I once considered so important.

Yet, ironically, these great truths are so personally phenomenal that they simply cannot be fully realized in words alone—they must be experienced by oneself—then and only then can this wonderful ‘soul satisfaction’ be known for all it’s absolute beauty, power and transformation.

When we have grown weary of the world’s temporal “fixes” and we desire ‘something more, something better’ we can look to Christ and at His cross we can find what our hearts desire more than anything else; unconditional love, abiding peace and overflowing joy through His Holy Spirit.

Today is the First Day of Autumn!

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The autumn of life is a strange mixture of nostalgia, blessings, and potential. It yields the harvest of seeds we’ve sown throughout life and braces us for colder days to come.

When life’s autumn arrives, we look back and better understand the way God led us; but we still have work to do—the best and fullest. It’s a good transition time.

“Autumn” only occurs once in the Bible. In Jude 1:12, false teachers are compared to “autumn trees without fruit,” implying that autumn should be a fruitful season, the most abundant of the year. How can we take advantage of the “autumn of life”?

The Unchanging Nature of God

The seasons come and go, so focus on the God who remains unchanged and unchanging. “LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:1-2).

There’s a lot of unwelcome change in our world. Moral and societal changes brother us most when we turn on our television or glance at the magazines. We’re painfully aware our kids are growing up in a world far different from the one we knew as children.

And personal changes—children leaving home, the passing of dear friends, and the slow, steady decline in our vitality and health. Sometimes we feel outdated at work.

But amid all the changes, one thing, one person, never changes—our eternal God. Remember this verse from “Abide with Me”?

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
–Henry F. Lyte

J. I. Packer points out that God does not change. His life is always the same. His character is always dependable. His truth, ways, and purposes do not change. His Son does not change. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

His children will enjoy His fellowship a million years from now. The world may fade, the stars may fall, the seasons may change, and winter may come. But the God who has been our help in ages past is our hope for years to come. In Him we have permanence, stability, joy unshakable, and life unending.

The Divine Foresight of God

We’ve all suffered setbacks along the way. But God promised, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. . . . You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God” (Joel 2:25-26). His divine forethought knew it all in advance, and He can be trusted with what has happened to us in years past.

Our omniscient Savior knows the end from the beginning, and He will bless whatever is yielded to Him. Focus on His foreknowledge, providence, and sovereignty.

The Wonderful Blessings of God

The autumn of life is a great time to focus on God’s wonderful blessings—family, friends, strength, shelter, provision, guidance, care, fruitful ministry, opportunities to serve, more time to pray and study His Word, and eternal life still to come.

During life’s autumn, we have a richer perspective and can count more blessings than ever before.

A Renewed Commitment to God

Autumn is a good time to focus on your commitment to God. Some of the saddest words in the Bible are in Jeremiah 8:20, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” If you’ve never made a commitment to Jesus Christ, do it now, while there is still time.

If you are a follower of Christ, remember to remain close to Him during the shifting seasons of life. Christ is our only solid anchor in every storm, our only hope in the complex and ever-changing landscape of our culture and future. He is the Creator of each season. Let Him be your Lord today and He will reveal the many colors of His love, grace, peace and power to you through all the colors of this autumn season.

 

Pray for All Affected by Hurricane Florence

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From: David Crews
Latest Update: Saturday, September 15, 5:30 AM
🙏🌀🌊⛈️
Florence is now a tropical storm but will continue to threaten North and South Carolina with powerful winds and catastrophic freshwater flooding. Its top sustained winds have dropped to 70 mph, and it’s at a near standstill, moving west at just 3 mph.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from its center. Florence is producing tropical storm-force wind gusts in Florence, South Carolina, about 60 miles from the coast, the National Hurricane Center said.

 North Carolina Flooding Expected to Worsen

The National Weather Service says 14 to 15 inches of rain has already fallen north of Swansboro, North Carolina, and it’s only going to get worse. Weather Prediction Center senior forecaster David Roth said catastrophic flash flooding is expected to continue to worsen Friday.

Roth said the heavy rainfall for southeast North Carolina is only one-third to one-quarter the way over.

“Plenty of heavy rain remains in the future for this region,” Roth wrote in the weather center’s rain forecast discussion.

 More Than 2,100 Flights Grounded

Airlines have canceled more than 2,100 U.S. flights from the storm’s approach on Wednesday through Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware. The region’s two largest airports, in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, had more than 200 cancellations on Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says Charleston International Airport in South Carolina isn’t expected to reopen until Monday night. Wilmington International in North Carolina expects to reopen at noon Saturday.

 Rainfall Totals Could Be Staggering

Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at weathermodels dot com, calculates that Florence is forecast to dump about 18 trillion gallons of rain in seven days over the Carolinas and Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland.

That doesn’t quite measure up to the 25 trillion gallons Harvey dropped on Texas and Louisiana last year. Maue said Harvey stalled longer and stayed closer to the coast, which enabled it to keep sucking moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

Still, 18 trillion gallons is as much water as there is in the entire Chesapeake Bay. It’s enough to cover the entire state of Texas with nearly four inches of water. That much rain is 2.4 trillion cubic feet. It’s enough to cover Manhattan with nearly 3,800 feet of water, more than twice as high as the island’s tallest building.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 9.6 trillion gallons, enough rain to cover the Tar Heel state in about 10 inches of water. Maue calculates that 34 million people will get at least 3 inches, with more than 5.7 million getting at least a foot and about 1.5 million getting 20 inches or more.

 5 Deaths Reported So Far

At least five people were killed during the storm, authorities said. A mother and an infant were killed when a tree fell onto their home in Wilmington on Friday. The father was injured and transported to a nearby hospital, The Wilmington Police Department said.

Images showed firefighters responding to the scene and kneeling to pray. The firefighters were shaken up by what they witnessed at the scene, CBS affiliate WWAY reports.

 Massive Power Outages Along the Coast

At least 490,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, according to poweroutage dot us, which tracks the nation’s electrical grid.

The numbers are expected to soar as the storm’s winds and torrential rains sweep over more land. Duke anticipates 1 million to 3 million of their 4 million customers in the Carolinas will lose power from Florence.

Hurricane Florence could inflict the hardest hurricane punch North Carolina has seen in more than 60 years. In 1954, the state was hit by a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Hazel.

“Hazel stands as a benchmark storm in North Carolina’s history,” said Jay Barnes, author of books on the hurricane histories of both North Carolina and Florida. “We had a tremendous amount of destruction all across the state.”

 Florence Hovering Near Cape Fear….Literally

The center of Hurricane Florence is hovering inland near Cape Fear, North Carolina. It remains a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 80 mph, but stronger wind gusts have been reported.

Florence was centered about 20 miles southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 55 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. advisory. It was crawling west-southwest at 3 mph, lifting huge amounts of ocean moisture and dumping it far from the coast.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.

 People worry and fear the worst for their property and possessions, and rightly so. Many may return to find destruction and ruin.

But they don’t have to find despair.

As a Christian, I want people to know God loves them and hasn’t forgotten them. A lot of people think when a storm comes that maybe God is mad at them, and He’s not. We share this simple, yet profound truth as we minister in crisis situations.

Franklin Graham said that Chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are already ministering to people who have fled to evacuation centers. And as soon as the storm has passed, they will be going into hard hit areas with our Samaritan’s Purse teams who will be responding to the physical needs.

We don’t run from disasters – we run to them. We go to help people in Jesus’ Name. We work all over the world like this. And in every heartbreaking situation, I hear people from all walks of life say: “We’re just glad we have our lives and each other,” and, “My faith in God is the one thing that’s giving me hope.”

 Fear. Storm. Flood. Fire. Tornado. Disease. Famine. War.

No matter the calamity, no matter the outcome, I want people who are suffering to know that God is their “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

You see, God’s not just there for us when things are going well, or when we still have a home. He’s there when the going is tough and the rug has been ripped out from under our feet – or soaked in the floodwaters.

And God uses people to bring hope and healing in times of trouble. Too often, especially here in America, we are guilty of seeing what divides us more often that what unites us: our common, intrinsic value as God’s creation, highly valued and greatly loved by Him.

Franklin Graham said “Every time I go out to a wrecked home where our volunteers are helping begin the recovery process, I am privileged to see that love shared and human dignity affirmed, often through tears, smiles, and sweaty hugs among hard-working people from all over the country.”

When you’re hurting, or are in a time of uncertainty, or don’t know where to turn, I want to encourage you to first turn upward and ask God for His help. He is always there. Then, turn to your left and right, find the people around you – some who you may not have met until this storm – and flash them a smile, give them a word of encouragement, and most of all, reach out with a helping hand.

As Christians who sincerely care, these is not a time for any theological speculation as to the “why’s” of this catastrophic, natural disaster—this is a “time for prayer”—for the millions who are forced to deal with loss, property damage, even death. Fortunately, many believers have taken up this prayer need and are praying as we speak.

David Crews