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New Horizons

God's Help in Disaster

S. Scott Willet

For Joshua, it was a good thing when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. But I felt more like Noah than Joshua when the foundation wall of our house nearly collapsed. We had just moved to Atlanta, where I was beginning a new pastorate. Almost upon our arrival, the rains began.

After a week of heavy rain, I preached on Sunday, September 20, about God's power at work in our lives. That night, hour after hour, we endured a thunderstorm the likes of which I had never witnessed before. In the morning, we arose to the horrors of a catastrophe.

During the night, the enormous pressure of groundwater along the front of our house had torn a gaping hole in the foundation wall, and water poured into the basement, where many boxes of our possessions were still waiting to be unpacked. By the time we got up, the water had receded, but eight inches of mud remained. The whole front of our two-story house was in danger of collapsing.

Our next-door neighbor informed other neighbors of our situation, and soon a large crew was helping to recover things from our basement. Hundreds of boxes had to be carried to the garage. The contents of many of them had been ruined. Homeschooling books, furniture, bookcases, equipment, toys, games, and every other sort of household possession had to be removed—along with the mud, the carpet, and the finished walls. My office had been set up in the basement, along with a large playroom for our children. There was a workroom and a storage room. Now everything was filled with mud.

We worked all that day. The only road in and out of the development was closed by the flood waters. Then, late that afternoon, the rains started again. The creek that was far down the bank in the backyard kept on rising. Finally we all left for the night to stay at a neighbor's house.

On Tuesday morning, the house was still standing, but an additional eighteen inches of rain had washed through the basement. Our whole neighborhood was now affected, and while many people continued to help us, others were busy cleaning out their own flood-ravaged homes. Nothing even close to this had ever been seen in this area. A national news network broadcast their report from our entrance.

On Wednesday, the road to our development opened. A contractor was hired and a temporary wall inside our basement was built that very afternoon to hold up the front of the house. But we couldn't live in the house. The initial estimate to repair the foundation wall was overwhelming.

Yet God was at work in all of this. A good friend from Virginia, known for his diaconal labors in different parts of the country, accepted my plea to come and help. Under his leadership and with the help of many from our new church, the basement was empty and dry within days. Other friends made arrangements to take care of our children for a week. I was engaged daily with contractors, engineers, insurance adjusters, and relief agencies. In church on Sunday, my wife and I were so physically and emotionally drained that we could do little else but break down in tears as we sat in the congregation.

God's hand was upon it all. Although I came to Atlanta to serve the church, our new congregation was given the opportunity to show love to their new pastor in a most practical way. It was God's purpose for them to minister to me even before I could fully begin to serve them. A generous outpouring of assistance from across the OPC began almost immediately, and I became keenly aware that God was providing for our needs. I am indebted to many readers of this article, most of whom are personally unknown to me. The debt of love I incurred now provides the context for my ministry.

I am convinced by this and other circumstances that Satan has been trying to disrupt my new ministry. But this has only emboldened my preaching. Fifteen days after this catastrophe, I wrote to the congregation, "Having been exposed to my own weakness and insufficiencies in so personal a manner, I would expect and pray that my preaching might all the more reflect that power and sufficiency of God himself, that he might show forth his glory through us as a church."

Life is not yet back to "normal," but the wall is repaired, and the flood insurance is expected to cover the contractor's bill. Diaconal funds seem more than adequate to replace what was lost. Rain is still unsettling, and fears of rising water still plague us, but God has been good and his people have been faithful. We have learned anew that his grace is sufficient and that his goodness is unchanging.

The author is pastor of Redeemer OPC in Atlanta (Doraville), Ga. Reprinted from New Horizons, March 2010.

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