We know as Christians that God is present in suffering, and even say, “God is there through the storm.” What was it like to actually be in the midst of it?
My wife and I, we prayed for protection. We prayed for the situation that we were in. We prayed for our kids…. I was concerned for them knowing that would be awhile before I was going to be able to get in touch with them. There’s no question that there’s that fear, but there’s also an understanding during that time that God was going to take care of us and provide for us.
To be honest, I didn’t know what that looked like. As a pastor, I often sit by the hospital bed and pray for healing; sometimes he heals in the way we ask, and sometimes he heals in a different way and takes us to heaven. I wasn’t sure what that looked like at that time, but I knew that God’s faithfulness was absolute. I didn’t question that in any way, shape, or form.
At what point did you start getting connected with political and business leaders on the island and helping coordinate the response from Samaritan’s Purse?
The owner of the hotel happened to come by, and I told him that my son had been talking to people at Samaritan’s Purse, and they were trying to bring an aircraft in with some supplies right away. The owner had a meeting with the airport commission and the prime minister that evening, so I gave him the information. I had been talking with my son from a place behind the hotel where we could pick up cell service.
The prime minister gave a verbal approval, but said that he wanted to check some things … so Samaritan’s Purse was standing by. The next morning, probably about 11 o’clock or so, I got the email saying, “You’ve got the approval to bring in the Samaritan’s Purse plane. Thank you for the help and support.”
It was the first supplies/humanitarian plane into that airport after the storm. I was staying at the hotel right next to the airport, so that’s where the shelter was. We were all sitting outside. It was about 5 o’clock or so, and we heard a jet. It was the first plane we heard. We heard these jet engines coming, and all of sudden, we saw the plane coming across the sky there and landing on the runway. The group all broke out in applause.
There was one lady who saw the plane and said, “That’s Samaritan’s Purse! I knew they’d come!” It was kind of cool for me to hear that testimony, that witness, that when tragedy happens, people just knew they’d show up, and they did.
Why did you decide to go back?
In the hours after the hurricane, the big thing we were working on was evacuation, getting people off the island. When we came out that Friday night on the Samaritan’s Purse plane, we were able to bring a lot of elderly people, sick people, as well as some families with young children. You’re focused on evacuation, but then you realize that all these people who are working hard to take care of you while you’re there in the shelter, this is their home. They’re not getting evacuated. They live there, and they’ve lost everything.
It was compelling to me that we’ve got to be in this thing for the long haul and support them and minister to and for them during this time. That’s why for me it was such an important opportunity, an open door God had given us to go back and minister to people who were ministering to us in their own way during that time. I went back on that Sunday afternoon, and I was able to bring back the last group out of that shelter and from the American university just a few miles away from that hotel.