As beautiful as the Caribbean is, it's located in the hurricane belt. Each hurricane season, we Jamaicans take much comfort in the fact that we are protected from hurricanes because our island is a mountainous masterpiece. Many of us look to the mountains for shelter from the storms. For decades these mountains have done exceptionally well in protecting us from the storms and hurricanes that have threatened our homeland, and surely they have won many victories. By now we have learned that the Jamaican mountains do not always guarantee us protection.
I have now experienced two major hurricanes in Jamaica: the Category 3 hurricane, Gilbert, in 1988, and Hurricane Ivan, of Category 5, in 2004. These two forces of nature were indeed forces to reckon with. Looking back now and comparing the two, Gilbert could be described as "bad weather;" Ivan as "severely destructive." Hurricane Ivan wreaked havoc in Jamaica, other Caribbean islands, and parts of the United States. For the very first time, I became a hurricane victim and was homeless for two nights because, in his rage, Ivan the Terror took the roof off what had been our home for nearly eight years. This was an entirely new experience for my household and me. Water flowed into our house from above as though it was not a house but an outdoor garden, receiving the torrential showers that gardens receive when it rains. We worked all night trying to see what we could secure and to push out some of the water as it collected in each room of the house.
It was amazing, though, how Jesus provided peace for us in that tempestuous situation, for during the ordeal, I found that songs flowed through my mind in the same magnitude or more as the waters flowed through our house, and I was able to sing though the billows rolled: "All the way my Savior leads me; What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my guide? Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell; For I know whate'er befalls me, Jesus doeth all things well."
"Don't cling to this world and its treasures, this earth will soon pass away, oh give Him your love without measure, He's calling you today."
"My faith looks up to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary."
"Holy Sabbath, day of rest, by our Master richly blest, God created and Divine, set aside for holy time."
"Under His wings I'm safely abiding; Though the night deepens and tempest are wild, Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me; He has redeemed me, and I am His child. Under His wings, under His wings, Who from His love can sever? Under His wings my soul shall abide, Safely abide forever."
"I will follow Thee, my Savior, Where-soe'er my lot may be. Where Thou goest I will follow; Yes, my Lord, I'll follow Thee."
Though the storm was raging and wailing, both inside and outside our house, I was amazed that in my heart there was a melody. Yes, Jesus placed a calm within me, a peace inside me that only he could provide and sustain amidst such billows. God was reminding me that in spite of what was happening, He was still in control and He would continue to lead me and take care of me and my family.
That night we were sheltered by friends, friends in whom the spirit of God dwells. Elder Ezra Fider and his wife Carol made us feel as though we were at home. What love! I thought about it: in just one night, life had changed so much for us. That night before going to bed I again sang, “My faith looks up to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine; Now hear me while I pray, Take all my guilt away, Oh let me from this day be wholly thine…” It is a good thing to look to God in faith because as I prayed that night I said, “Dear Jesus, I am your servant and I know you are in control, but since you didn’t give your angels charge to keep the roof of our house on, then it is clear to me you have another place for us to live. Could you please tell me where that place is?” Before I ended my prayer, a name surfaced in my mind. This person is a builder, and so I thought that at daybreak I would go in search of him to see if he could help me find a house. When I found him, he said he had no house available but that his brother had recently completed renovations on one of his houses. He took me to his brother, and in less than 24 hours after Hurricane Ivan blew the roof off our house, we found another place to live. Later that day, I found a second option—another available house was made known to me. Imagine finding two houses in less than one day after the storm! God directed me to take the first option. Today, I am settled again in my new home as though I had been living there for eight years or more. “My God shall supply all you need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:19, KJV).
God is in every storm, and He provides not just calm and peace, but He provides songs, houses, and other solutions too. God indeed is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). I suggest to all of us in Jamaica and elsewhere to stop looking to the mountains around us for security and start looking to Jesus, who is the sure shelter in the time of storm.