Growing up in South Florida, I have always considered myself well versed in handling natural disasters, particularly hurricanes. Yet somehow, God always has a interesting way of humbling us.
On Easter Sunday morning, April 4, I woke up to the sound of rain pattering our tin roof. It had been pouring rain all night long, and I was surprised that it was still down pouring like this. Curious, I opened my phone to windy.com, the only weather forecast site I’ve found which forecasts our area.
To my surprise, I saw a tropical cyclone sitting just east of our little island, dumping rain on us. I’ve never heard of tropical cyclones in this part of the world, and no one here had either. Within hours, the power had gone out and news infiltrated my social media that the nearby dam had been breached. Water was flooding into neighborhoods all around us. Fortunately, our house is located on the top of a hill, but just 300 yards from our home water filled the streets and the homes up to the tin roofs. People ran for their lives.
It was an Easter Sunday full of tragedy and crisis as people sheltered wherever they could find dry ground. But this was just the outer bands of the cyclone, and it was heading our way.
There was very little time to prepare for the intense winds coming, and with no warnings or alerts from the government, the majority of the population had no idea a major wind storm was headed their way. We managed to run to the store and buy a pan of eggs and a box of instant ramen, but that was all we could manage to fit in for preparedness. No time to shutter windows, move in outside furniture, or cut loose branches from the trees. On Monday evening, neighbors who had bamboo houses shuttered into our cement-walled home, and we prayed. As the night came in and the winds started to blow, we continued to pray. Many of you prayed us through that night, and I can’t thank you enough.
After eating our ramen and eggs, we bundled up and waited. It was cold. It was very loud. Wind whistled all around our house and we could hear trees and debris being thrown around outside. No one slept, but we all kept looking up at the roof to make sure it would hold. I had a bag packed with important documents and my shoes next to it, ready to grab and run if the roof or walls gave way. It was the scariest night of my life.
After 10 hours of howling winds and banging trees outside, the winds finally calmed. We nabbed a few hours of sleep, aware that the next days ahead would be full of relief efforts and hard work. As the sun came up, I stepped outside and saw the demolition of trees down everywhere. Pieces of roof were lying in the middle of the road, some houses badly damaged. But God spared us, and God spared our home. Again.
The next two weeks were full of relief efforts. Our school worked with a neighbor setting up a community kitchen to cook meals for people who had been forced from their homes. We were the lucky ones, so we invested our time and efforts bringing supplies to impacted families and homes.
Two weeks later, our power came back on, and now that it’s been 3 weeks since that fateful Easter Sunday, life is starting to get back to normal. Most people have been able to repair their homes and return, although those badly damaged by the flood are still cleaning up. The dam breech cut off critical irrigation supply to much of the area, so now farmers are grappling to find other ways to make a living.
Erdy and his team spent the last week installing 3 pumps by a river in a local village that relies on rice patties for food and income. Since their irrigation canals have dried up, this pump delivers critical water to irrigate the rice patties and keep these people alive. My school and team have spent the past week reaching out to students and parents who were impacted by the disaster, bringing supplies and also providing trauma healing for the kids who endured the crisis.
The road to recovery and rehabilitation for our small island is still long and we have much to do, but I am amazed and blessed by the many ways God has provided for us over these last weeks, and the many, many prayers He has answered. I thank each of you deeply for being a part of our journey here and lifting us up in prayer over these past weeks. It’s your prayers which have carried us.