Mary Craig Ministries - Hurricane Ian -- A Pastor Writes About his Experience

Mary Craig Ministries
Home Page > News and Views > Article

A Pastor Writes About His Experience With Hurricane Ian

Their church and community are on Sanibel Island which was hit very hard by Hurricane Ian. Joanna picked up this encouraging message on Facebook from the pastor who wrote about his thoughts as he and his family were taking refuge in a hotel...

Oct 4, 2022
From Mary Craig

Hello, everyone.

My daughter forwarded this to me; I'm forwarding it to you.

Please keep those affected by Hurricane Ian in prayer, and be encouraged. God is our Refuge and our Strength.

Love to you in Christ,

Dr. Mary

Oct 3, 2022
From Joanna

Saw this encouraging post on Facebook that was shared to me from someone else. Itís written by the pastor at Sanibel Community Church to his congregation.

Below is a letter from Pastor Jeramie to the church family today:


Dear Sanibel Church Family,

Itís Sunday morning, Oct 2, 4:30 am. Iím writing this from a hotel bathroom so as not to wake my wife. I couldnít have imagined a week ago that this is where I would be today.

Normally on a Sunday morning, I would be waking up around 5:30 am or so and head out for a beach walk with my poodle to pray and think through the sermon I had spent all week preparing. This Sunday in particular would have been the beginning of a new sermon series in Daniel, followed by the Lordís Supper in our last one-service gathering.

But instead, Iím sitting in a hotel bathroom.

I donít have a house. My earthly possessions can now fit in my truck. I canít go to my favorite beach. I have no idea when I will preach again in my pulpit on Sanibel to my beloved congregation. And no, I didnít get around to studying Daniel much this week.

Where are you this morning?

Some of you are also in hotels on the east coast. Some are staying with family and friends, wondering how long the arrangement will work. Others are up north watching this disaster from a distance, filled with more questions than answers, and plagued by a vexing sense of helplessness. Some are in the Ft Myers area without power or internet or consistent cell service. They canít even read this email. Some are stuck in shelters at Shell Point because the storm surge wiped out most of the cars there. Some . . . I donít know where they are.

Is it sinking in yet or are you still in shock? The feelings and thoughts come in waves.

I havenít had much time or capacity to reflect on the events of the past week. Most of my mental energy has been spent on trying to coordinate efforts, solve problems and find people. But this morning, sitting in my bathroom office unable to sleep, I find myself in a rare moment of contemplation. Iím thinking about Psalm 46:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a helper who is always found in times of trouble.
2 Therefore we will not be afraid though the earth trembles
and the mountains topple into the depth of the sea,
3 though the water roars and foams
and the mountains quake with it turmoil.

The Psalmist meant the roaring sea as a metaphor for turmoil and danger, particularly the danger of hostile nations around Israel. But this week we saw the literal referent for that metaphor. We saw the sea rise up and swallow homes, cars, bridges and lives. The storm cut the causeway islands in half. The incredible power of the sea flung boats and cars all over Iona. Ft Myers beach is completely devastated.

The Psalm describes an earth-shattering ocean storm. These verses will never again be an abstraction for us.

Yet we must not forget how the Psalm begins. ďGod is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.Ē God is our refuge. No storm touches God. God needs no insurance policy because he reigns above the flood. He is the only safe place. God is our strength. God never loses power or fuel. The Lord doesnít feel anxious or perturbed and has no troubled thoughts about the future. Our heavenly Father is not passing through phases of shock, grief and despair. The Triune God dwells in perfect peace, joy and delight at all times. He is not exhausted or depleted. A helper who is always found. Unlike us, our God is not helpless. He isnít stuck watching the news, imagining himself renting a boat so he can sneak onto the island and do something. He is our helper who is always found in times of trouble. Trouble comes and goes. Hurricanes pass. But our helper never changes or leaves us. Even when our future is uncertain and our lives have been completely overturned, we know these things about God. He is almighty, he is eternal and he loves us.

No wonder the Psalmist can look into the tempest and say ďTherefore we will not be afraid.Ē The psalmist is not in denial about the power of the storm. Rather he beholds the greatness and power and lovingkindness of our Lord toward us. God is infinitely willing and able to help his storm-tossed people. The fury of hurricane Ian is a gentle breeze compared to the might of our savior God.

And if the Psalmist knew these things about the Lord, how much more should we who live in light of the cross. Our Lord Jesus has rendered the ultimate aid. He bore the terrifying storm of Godís wrath to save us from our sins. The cross is our refuge. Jesus is our strength. He is risen and ever present to help us. Let us go to his throne boldly for mercy and grace.

This faith in the Lord as our refuge, strength, and help gives us an internal strength that stands in stark contrast to the chaos of the storm:

4 There is a riveróits streams delight the city of God,
the holy dwelling place of the Most High.
5 God is within her, she will not be toppled,
God will help her when the morning dawns.

Yes, there is a raging ocean. But remember there is also a river. From our Lord flows peace and life. We have been shaken but because the Lord is within us, we will not topple.

Look to the Lord brothers and sisters. We wonít topple. We wonít collapse. Sanibel Community Church still standsóand Iím not talking about the building on Periwinkle.

And this stream isnít just for us. The Lord wants his living waters to flow out of our lives into the lives of others. I bet even in the pain and confusion of this past week, the thought has crossed your mind, ďHow will the Lord use this to advance the gospel and display his glory?Ē Keep asking that question. Turn it into a prayer.

Godís calling on his people to be salt and light and to bear witness to Jesus has not changed. Our mission remains intact. We are still here to multiply maturing disciples of Jesus and healthy churches for the glory of God and the good of the world. All that has changed are the circumstances and contexts where God is calling our congregation to execute that mission.

On Wednesday as the storm raged, I was sitting in a mall in Boca Raton trying to get internet. One of the stores had a TV with news coverage of the storm. Starved for information I walked over to watch with a few others. We started talking and I told them I was a Sanibel refugee. The strangers around me stood in shock as I described what little I knew was happening on Sanibel, Captive and Ft Myers.

The conversation ended, and I returned to my computer. A few minutes later one of the store employees came over and said, ďIím sorry but I just have to ask. Why are you so calm? Youíre losing everything and yet you seem so nonchalant.Ē It was a funny question because I didnít feel calm or nonchalant. Yet thatís what he perceived.

So I started to explain, ďWell, Iím a Christian, and I pastor a churchÖĒ I didnít get to finish my sentence. His face lit up and he said, ďOf course! You have God. I got it! It all makes sense.Ē And he walked away smiling.

I bet there are lots of conversations like that waiting for us in the coming weeks and months.

I pray today that wherever you are, you may take time to sit beside the river of God and be filled with his peace. And then take his Word, his gospel, and his love to a helpless and hopeless world thatís still sinking.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Jeramie


An update from Pastor Jeramie
Early October...

Out of the Mud

. . .

The lowest point came when I found a tub that sat on a cabinet just above the waterline. It was sealed tight and contained mementos for one of my kids. It was like a little ark full of meaning and hope saved from the flood. While carrying it out my foot slid in that mud, I banged into the wall and dropped the tub. It flipped and spilled everything.

Into the mud.

On the one hand, it is just stuff. You canít take it with you, and you can replace a lot of it. Losing things reminds us of Jesusí words that a manís life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15). These are ultimately healing truths for the soul to digest. But on the other hand, itís still hard to lose things. Many of those items held meaning and memory. They are artifacts of oneís life, and so tossing them feels like a death. And on top of it all, thereís the simple, sobering realization you now donít have anything.

When I got back to my condo, a text came through from Brian Harris. It was a bit from Psalm 40:

2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction
out of the miry bog,
And set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.

Here was a new member practicing the one anotherís by encouraging his pastor with the Word of God. I donít have my stuff. But I do have Godís Word, I have prayer, and I have a body of believers who love one another and are serving one another sacrificially, both in word and deed. And through these things, I have Jesus who lifts me from the miry bog.

As I reflected on my own losses, I realized thatís where our church is right now. God has stripped SCC naked. Weíre in the mud. Weíve lost so much. We donít have very much at all to offer the world. We canít offer a beautiful causeway drive on Sunday morning or a cheery island campus. We donít have the historic chapel to use and Kevinís cool youth room is now a storage area for salvaged items. The cafeís menu of lattes and pastries has been replaced with water bottles and MREs. We donít have a portfolio of programs and activities: no menís bible studies, no Logos, no quilting, no Luminary.

One hurricane changed everything. Weíve gone from a strong, established institution to a refugee church in exile meeting in a building graciously offered to us by a three-year-old church plant. Today our church only has three things. We have the Word of God and the gospel it proclaims. We have prayer. And we have love for one another. And in these three things, we have Jesus.

Sunday night was our first worship gathering since the hurricane. Our assembly had a fresh authenticity, intensity, and simplicity. You could hear the faith in the singing and praying, and you could feel the love as people lingered long afterward to talk and hug. We had Godís Word, prayer, and each other and that was enough.

A woman came up to me afterward and said, ďDo you realize whatís happening here? This is a room full of people who have suffered great loss and yet they are praising God!Ē Thatís what we have to offer the world. Itís like the Psalmist said. Heís pulling us up from the miry bog. Heís putting a new song in our mouths. Many will see and hear.

Ė Pastor Jeramie

See the entire article and the latest news on their recovery efforts, hearbreaking losses (but no lost lives), and their newfound joy in the Lord through this great trial at www.sanibelchurch.com.

.

mary@marycraig.org

 

ïBack to MCM News and Views

Top of Page