In the Aftermath of Hurricane Michael, the Answers Still Come

Driving to church this morning, I look around at a landscape dramatically changed. Even the church location, John and I are headed to has changed; our church home destroyed by Hurricane Michael.

As I look around, my heart hurts to see the destruction everywhere. Piles of debris line the once tree-lined streets. Homes wearing the now-familiar blue and grey of tarps, signs warning looters to stay away, broken shells of the safe spaces they used to be. The echoing sounds of chainsaws and work trucks rumbling through neighborhoods, trying to return some sense of normalcy to shattered streets.

Businesses boarded up and dark. Parking lots now home to Red Cross Disaster Relief vans, FEMA tents offering shelter and supplies, people standing in line to get basic necessities like a hot meal, water, clean clothes. At times, I feel like I’ve been transported from the place I’ve called home for most of my life, to another dimension. Nothing looks the same.

Photo captured near Springfield, FL, one of the hardest hit areas, by resident, Jeff Haire.

Familiar landmarks, gone. Signs that at one time marked roads and streets, lying on the ground among so many piles of debris and pieces of broken lives. It’s daunting and so heartbreaking. Three weeks after, it’s overwhelming to see how far we’ve yet to go.

How do we even begin to recover? What tools do we employ to rebuild shattered lives? Will our desire and determination to rise from these ashes be enough? These questions weigh heavy on my soul. The answers buried somewhere amid the miles and miles of debris.

A photograph taken by Panama City, FL, Cove resident, Gwenn Zwingelberg of her street three weeks after Hurricane Michael. Although pick-up is slowly progressing, many streets in the affected areas are still clogged with the miles of debris left behind by the storm. 

As John and I arrive at the Todd Herendeen Theater on Panama City Beach, to worship with our Bayside Church family along with the members of Elevation Life Church, some of the answers come.

This building, generously given to us to use as we search for a new church home, is an answer. The building is not the church, the people I see all around me, arms raised in praise and thanksgiving, are the church. The location in which we stand does not matter. It’s the faith and trust we hold in our hearts, that God is still God, the source of all hope and healing. That is the answer.

Likewise, our destroyed cities and homes are not at the heart of who we’ve been and who we are becoming. It’s the people that make this place home, that feeds the life, the blood, sweat, and the tears we’ve shared. It’s that spirit that remains though all around us lays brokenness. Neighbors reaching out to lend a hand, strangers providing hope and comfort, a safe harbor in the storm. That is the answer.

Our lives have been altered, our city all but destroyed, but our spirits, the essence of who we are, remains undaunted, unbroken. It’s that spirit that will prevail. It’s that spirit that makes us stronger, that fuels the hope, and propels us forward.

That spirit is at the heart of it all. That spirit comes from our Maker, and it goes deeper than the skin covering our bones, deeper than the buildings that make up our homes, and so much deeper than the destruction that lays all around us. Through God, the answer becomes clear and certain.

If we trust in Him, all things will be made new, all hurts will be healed, and all the potential we possess will be revealed. Through God’s mercy and love, if we but turn to Him, He will answer every prayer and meet every need. That is the most important answer of all.

As we leave worship, my spirit is renewed, my heart lighter, my hope deeper. I found my answer. Through the storm I trusted God to protect me, to protect my family, to protect my home, and now in the aftermath, I will trust Him even more. I know that He is, in all things, the same as He has always been.  I will not worry, I will not falter, for I know that He walks with me and that in Him, all things will be made new.

God IS the answer. In the storm, in the aftermath, in the calm, in all things, God IS the answer.

© 2018 Jennifer Nelson Fenwick