Troubled Waters

‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.’
(Isaiah 43:2 NIV)

We'd always interpreted this verse figuratively, recognising the challenges that could come our way, and they did. But then we got another take on it living in India. 

We'd been in Chennai just five months when we experienced our first major natural disaster there.  We lived round the corner from the cyclone monitoring centre, but were a hundred miles north of the city when colleagues informed us of news of an impending cyclone. We needed to head home, so drove the four hour journey through the pouring rain, driven already by high winds, arriving well after midnight.

Next morning came the news that the area north of us in coastal Andhra Pradesh was badly affected. Preliminary reports indicated that many Salvation Army churches and schools had been seriously damaged, if not destroyed. We called a meeting of key staff and arranged funds for emergency rations. Staff went out in twos to affected districts. A few days later we ourselves travelled into the affected areas, extensive flooding visible as we flew overhead. Reports from the emissaries spoke of immense needs. Our own impressions confirmed these as we met the people, waded through flooded compounds, sat beside flooded rivers, saw bridges destroyed, smelt the stench of the rotting flesh of cattle, chicken and other livestock. We saw people housed in cyclone shelters, in churches and schools, their own houses destroyed. Their resilience was remarkable. They would soon be out mending what they could or rebuilding their pole and mud houses. Could we just assist by providing palmyra palm leaves for thatching, was one of the requests.

Local resources were limited. If we could communicate with the international office there might be some hope. Phone lines were down, but we eventually found a public call box and armed with a pile of coins managed to speak to colleagues in London. That began a sequence of tranches that would ultimately exceed US$ 1.5m, enabling the extensive rebuilding over the next 18 months of staff houses, schools and churches.

Of course there were requests we were unable to fulfil. But often we would hear people say: 'Never mind, we were just glad you were here with us.'

It was we who represented God, who promises to be with us when we need him.

‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.’

But we could not have done this alone. We needed the support of fellow-believers both locally and internationally.

That network bridges continents.

January 2016