The last few months we have learned that while we cannot always understand the why, we can't deny the presence of God in the mess. We gathered a few stories from during and after the flooding. You'll hear from two of our missionary teachers and their reflections of the flooding as it was happening. Then, Jack Horton shares a story that opened his eyes and heart, a story of hope from his recent Thanksgiving trip to the DR.
I sit on the edge of the musty, damp hospital cot, as she clings to my hand with all the strength left in her little body. She stares at me with wide eyes and I see the tears welling up in the corners. “Se valiente- be brave,” I tell her as they insert the IV. She is afraid; I see it in her eyes. I pray with her and smile, talking of the sun that has finally shown it’s long-awaited presence this morning, hoping to raise her failing spirits. I see the corners of her mouth turn up in a weak attempt at a smile.
And my heart fills with thoughts and emotions to which it’s hard to put words. I feel anger. Anger at the injustice of this whole situation. Where is her mother? Far away. Why? Who is looking after this one? An overburdened woman with a home bursting at the seams and a time-demanding job. How did we arrive at this moment? Lack of food. One second she was standing beside me, the little plastic bag of donated clothing in her hand, and then next, this wisp of a girl hit the pavement with a frightening thud.
I stroke her fragile hand and look out the rusty window at the sky, now shrouded once more with clouds and spewing forth its relentless rains, and I blink hard to keep back the tears. Have mercy, Lord, have mercy. I repeat over and over in my head.
People are suffering, homes are ravaged. It is hard not to feel despair as I slosh through the water-filled streets, taking in the disheartening view. I try to help pull out water-damaged items, heaping them into a massive bag of trash- ruined. I attempt in vain to rid some clothing of dirt, scrubbing it in the mirky water swirling about my feet. A sinking feeling of helplessness fills my stomach. And this is not my home. I have a warm dry place to return to, my things are all in tact. How must they feel? What can be done?
Slowly, I work the brush through her snarled hair, gently coaxing the curls into a pony tail. It’s the first time I’ve seen her looking clean and well-kept in a long while. She wraps her arms around my waist and I hug her back, my thoughts far away. This little one grieves my heart. This precious one in my arms- was expelled from Makarios last year for lack of attendance. No one was there to wake her in the morning and send her two minutes down the road to school. She seeks out my affection. My heart breaks. What will become of these girls? What will it take to break the cycle of brokenness?
His smile is contagious and his energy never runs out. Everyone knows him by a silly, but catchy nickname from a song. I love this kid. He throws his arms around me with a wide-eyed grin, and begins to chatter a hundred miles an hour. Just two days ago, his house was filled to the rim with floodwaters, forcing he and his sister to evacuate. The two have been staying ever since at the Mak house, while their father figures out what to do about their loss. For a while now, this boy has occupied a special corner of my heart. Just two years ago, he lost his mom. I feel it in the way he hugs me, yearning for that motherly touch. I see it in the way he is eager to show me what he knows, to make me proud. And who am I? Just a teacher he knows from school. Just someone who he sits with during bible class at church. This boy has already lost one of the most important people in his life and now, most of his earthly possessions. And yet, despite these unbelievable hardships, he has a hopeful spring in his step, a joyful lilt to his voice. He is special, I see it. And I wonder what plans the Lord has for this passionate little kid.
But for now, the realities of the past few days hang heavy. There is little to do but wait. Wait for the end of the rain. Wait for things to dry. And so we wait and offer these two what little we can- shelter, food, love. And I wish that it was more. How I wish I could make all things right again.
These are just a few of the many moments in the past three long days that have sent my heart and mind into a whirl. I am overwhelmed at the need. I am angry at the negligence. I am heartbroken at the loss.
Each situation presents a new why. Why are children unattended? Why is their so much damage and loss? Why are the rains ceasing to let up? Why can’t I do more?
But there are also moments of hope, like little flashes of light in the bleak darkness: -Seeing the church join forces to gather and distribute donations and food. -The fleeting glimpses of sunlight that have peeked their way through this day, bringing deep sighs of relief. -The blessing of the Mak house and the refuge it has provided to various displaced children. -The sweet pajama-clad moments of snuggling while I read the story of the great flood to some of the little bitties last night, reminding them of God’s promise to never again cover the earth in water.
I have to dwell on these moments. I have to give God thanks for them. I have to trust in His sovereignty. If I don’t, I will crumble; the despair will win. But, I know better. I know my God.
While I can’t understand the suffering, while there will always be a never-ending string of why’s, while the rain may not ease for a while, I know there is hope. Because my God is good. He is faithful. And He sees. Pray that I and all those around me would cling ever more to these truths.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
This past week has felt like it has been thing after thing. Need after need. And I am so thankful to be surrounded by our church body who has been constantly helping, giving advice and loving those affected. It is easy to get defeated in it all. To feel like I just don’t even know where to begin to help and to question every decision we make for it’s long term effects. But God has been constantly reminding me of His goodness in it all. In the wisdom of being still and letting Him fight. That there is beauty in the broken things. The song, “The Broken Beautiful” by Ellie Holcomb has been a necessary reminder of God’s promises and goodness.
“That Your love will never change,
that there’s healing in your name
That You can take broken things,
and make them beautiful
You took my shame
And You walked out of the grave
So Your love can take broken things
and make them beautiful”
God has done so much, and is still in control. And even when things seem to just be too broken and I want to doubt that God cares, I am reminded by the sweet moments. Some of the most beautiful moments that have happened in the past week, couldn’t have happened without the brokenness. And for that, I give thanks for each situation because God’s plans are more profound than what I can see myself.
While walking through Tamarindo Monday afternoon we stopped at the house of a Mak student and had the opportunity to walk through his house to see his backyard. What we saw instead were the remnants of his backyard. Much of it had recently been washed into the Camu by the flooding and there was only about 10 or 15 feet of land left between a descent into the river and his house. A good part of the yard was taken up by a palm tree, which was the child’s main concern…if the tree went it would likely take much of the backyard, and possibly house, with it as it uprooted the surrounding soil.
I was one of the last group members to walk through the student’s home, but when I came back to the front, his mom had just walked up and was speaking to a really confused group of high schoolers (it was everyone’s first time and they didn’t know much spanish at all…). Once Mrs. Majcher could come out to translate, I think the full weight of God’s faithfulness, love, and mercy hit everyone for the first time in the DR.
This woman was just going on and on about how she was just focused on God and His goodness. She spoke about how she trusted completely in His plan and mercy even as her house sat on the verge of collapse. She also spoke briefly on how thankful she was for what she had.
This, I’ll point out, is also something my mom picked up on as we were walking through the woman’s house earlier. My mom noticed that the woman had her nice little tea cups (not much by American standards) hung up and on display in her kitchen. She had her living room straightened and it hit my mom that she was just as proud of he home and the blessings she’s received from the Lord as we were, and those are the things she wanted to display for people.
Anyhow, it was cool to watch a bunch of DR first timers hit by the amount of faith that was present in that place. It’s so much more in your face. It was made more poignant by the fact that Darren’s sermon the day before had been about focus, and where you’re putting/placing your faith and thoughts during the storm. He referenced Matthew and Peter’s walking on the water and a personal story, but but it was just really cool to see that faith played out in the real world by someone who had literally, and would likely again soon, been through a terrible storm…not to mention all the other metaphorical “storms” I’m sure she was going through.
We had the opportunity to pray over her, her home and her family. Just cool to see faith lived out so brilliantly in the DR.