Irma howls: what we need to pray
Our Director of Product Development, Barry Cooper, lives in Florida. He shared his reflections on Hurricane Irma.
This is the first time I’ve experienced a hurricane. As most weather-obsessed Brits would, I was getting quite excited in anticipation of what was coming. But it was much more frightening than I thought it would be.
I've been in two earthquakes; one in Washington DC in 2011, and another in New Delhi twenty years before that. Neither of those experiences compared to this.
I live with my wife in a second floor apartment in New Smyrna Beach. It’s most famous for being the shark attack capital of the world. The building here seems pretty solid, so we didn’t think we’d be in personal peril, and I certainly didn’t want to admit to any fear - we’ve only just past our first anniversary, so I’m still pretending to be the fearless warrior husband. But that thought took a battering as the evening wore on.
When the power went, I was outside trying to get some footage for Facebook Live. Red emergency lights suddenly illuminated, lighting the whole corridor like it was in a bad horror movie.
We had a battery powered radio tuned in to the weather channel, which was giving constant updates. Every so often, it went completely silent as the transmission was interrupted. Then you heard the garbled screech of computer noise, followed by a robotic pre-recorded voice saying, “A tornado warning has been issued for the following location: New Smyrna Beach. Do not wait until you can see or hear the tornado. Take cover NOW.”
It was unsettling, which I imagine was the point.
Worse was Irma’s voice. At the height of the storm, from midnight to 3am, there was a rising howl which sounded almost human. The front door of every apartment along the corridor was rattled, one by one, as if Irma was going from door to door, trying to get inside.
The front door of every apartment along the corridor was rattled, one by one, as if Irma was going from door to door, trying to get inside.
Outside there were gusts of 80mph. When you add a projectile into the mix, nothing is safe. So we ended up going to sleep on the kitchen floor, which was the only place that was fully shielded from our windows.
Are you prepared?
One thing that occurred to me is the way that people have responded to threat and the warnings.
There's the danger that people don't heed the warnings because they think they’ve survived worse, or they imagine the threatened disaster won’t come their way. In this case, I think it could have been a lot worse - but thankfully, most people seemed to heed the warnings. We saw the pictures of Houston last week so it was uppermost in our minds.
And the people in our area really did prepare well. They bought bottled water and tinned food, they put metal corrugated shutters on their windows, and they stayed inside listening for tornado warnings.
People took so much time to prepare for the coming hurricane, but many of the same folks do nothing to prepare for the coming wrath which Jesus constantly spoke about. And it’s not as if the gospel message is unknown in these parts.
People took so much time to prepare for the coming hurricane, but many of the same folks do nothing to prepare for the coming wrath which Jesus constantly spoke about.
Praying in the aftermath
As I’ve been researching Philippians for the new edition of Discipleship Explored, I’ve noticed that Paul never prays for his suffering friends by saying, “Lord please change their circumstances.”
He prays instead that - in the middle of suffering - believers would be bold in their witness, and bold in their love. He wants their Christian love and service and unity to be so remarkable that the world sees Jesus in them.
So let’s pray for the aftermath of Irma the way Paul would pray.
We should absolutely pray for those who are bringing aid and help; for those families touched by tragedy, that they would be comforted.
But let’s also be praying for the church in Florida, and many others elsewhere—that they would shine like stars in the darkness (Philippians 2:15), so that the world would prepare for the coming wrath, and turn to the arms of Christ while there’s time.
Find out more about the new edition of Discipleship Explored
This blog first appeared on The Good Book Company