Finding Faith in the Midst of Flooding ~ The Rev. Dcn. Dollie Wilkinson, OPI
A few years ago, areas of my home state, West Virginia, faced a severe water crisis. Due to the carelessness of a company tasked with storing chemicals in huge tanks, our water became contaminated. Not only was it not safe to drink, but we could not even use it to bathe or wash clothes. What we all took for granted on a daily basis, became a precious resource that was very scarce. Businesses shut down, schools were canceled and store shelves became bare pretty quickly. But people came together to help each other. Neighbors shared bottled water, people and companies from out of state sent tankers of water and other items to help WV residents cope with this crisis. After about ten days, the water was deemed safe to use, and life began to return to normal.
Last week, West Virginia faced another water crisis. But this one was not caused by the careless actions of man, but by nature. Torrential rains and storms swept through parts of the state, causing so much damage, devastation, and even loss of life. Here are some facts about West Virginia’s devastating weekend flooding:
•The National Weather Service classified West Virginia’s flooding as a “one-in-a-thousand-year-event.”
•As of Sunday, 25 lives had been lost.
•44 of 55 counties in West Virginia were under a state of emergency, mostly in the southeastern area.
•Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties’ residents qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid after West Virginia was declared a federal disaster area.
•In Kanawha County, a temporary gravel road was built to rescue 500 people trapped when the bridge crossing was destroyed by flooding on Thursday.
•Thousands were without power, and more than 60 secondary roads were still closed days afterwards.
•An estimated 8-10 inches of rain led to the massive flooding.
•The Greenbrier Resort, largest employer in Greenbrier County, is closed to the public until further notice but has opened its doors to flood victims and is offering extensive help for its neighbors.
These bare facts cannot give a clear picture of the tragedy and devastation faced by those impacted by the flood waters. As the flood waters recede, the clean-up will last days, weeks, months, and perhaps years. As we watch the news, showing images of towns underwater, mud-caked homes, homes forced off foundations, the twisted metal of vehicles and buildings wrapped around trees, and even a video of a burning house floating downstream, it almost seems surreal. As if this couldn’t possibly happen to us. But it did. I believe one eye witness in Rupert, WV, Davina Agee, best described the scope of the devastation:
“Children were missing parents today, parents were also missing children. One lady escaped her flooding home and slept in her car with two infants and when rescued today, she did not even have shoes. Children were being loaded onto the national guard trucks with people saying, “We don’t know who these children belong to.”There are still people stranded in homes awaiting rescue. People have been without food or water for over 24 hours now. Many are displaced without important medications. Some have lost everything and have yet to even find their loved ones. But our little communities have come together like no other.
Police officers and fireman have been working tirelessly for 36 hours straight. We are feeding the hungry, clothing those that we can, checking on each other and helping as best we can. This is not about a delayed golf game. It’s not about the loss of cars or trucks. It’s not even about the homes or buildings anymore. It’s about the people! The human beings. Who can we save and how can we care for them?! Let’s survive this and help as many as we can.”
When we look at the particulars of this tragedy – 25 lives lost, hundreds of homes destroyed, an entire town under water, it would be easy to seek blame. Though an act of nature, we naturally want to put the blame on someone. And who do we look to blame – God. But this is wrong in so many ways. Our Heavenly Father did not cause the flood. We only have to go back to the first major flood, and the Lord’s response, to see this is true.
Genesis 6:5-22 7:1-17 (KJV)
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in. And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.”
We know the rest of the story. The flood waters came, everything on earth was wiped out, and Noah, his family, and all the animals on the ark were spared the devastation. Eventually the flood waters receded, and everyone was able to step on to dry land.
Genesis 8:1-5 (KJV)
“And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.”
So, now you ask – God did it once, why wouldn’t He do it again (such as the recent flooding in WV)? God doesn’t work that way. The flood detailed in the Bible happened for a reason, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,”. But He later goes on to explain why He will not allow that to happen again.
Genesis 8:21 (KJV)
“And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.”
So while it may be easy to blame the Lord, we now know He only wants to help us, comfort us, be our strength during difficult times. What surprises me, well really it doesn’t, is how so many different people, from all over the state, and across the country, have come together to help those impacted by the flooding in West Virginia. Again, Mrs. Agee says it best:
“People are sending me an overwhelming amount of messages and they all say “thank you for what you’re doing.” Just for the record, I am not to be thanked. I am doing what any red blooded, God fearing, West Virginia girl would be doing at a time like this! I just happen to have resources to tap into and awesome people to help me. I am not alone. God has sent me dozens, if not hundreds, of wonderful people and helpers that are the ones making everything possible. I love my home town and I love the people. I am doing what I love. HELPING PEOPLE! I don’t need to be thanked. The real heroes are the ones that swam in freezing water to save lives; the ones who searched and rescued humans; the ones who got up today and shoveled their lives into trash bags and began to start over; the ones who are grieving loved ones and the ones that still haven’t been rescued yet. Those are the heroes, the ones that are to be recognized and thanked! To God be the glory for all the rescue and relief effort! Thank you to all those helping and recovering. I love you all!”
As we begin the long process of recovering from the recent flood, as we mourn the loss of so many lives, as we strive to rebuild what has been torn apart, we must always look to the Lord, our Heavenly Father, for strength. He will provide for our needs (by sending resources to those who lost everything). He will comfort those who not only lost their homes, but family and friends. And, He will always be there, when all hope seems gone.
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