My prayer today is that each and every one of you made it safe through the storm and its aftermath. So many of the evacuees that we housed here at Sanctuary got bad news about their homes and churches. God still gives them strength to endure and none of them are giving up hope. Here in Jena, we saw a rough storm. I am only getting electricity restored to my home within the hour. Let me tell you my story: I had a home full of evacuees from Houma, Louisiana. I was telling them about how to react for possible tornadoes because the wind had really picked up. Just as I was talking about the unmistakable, unforgettable, sound of a huge tree first cracking, falling, and then landing on the ground, one fell in my own back yard, just a few feet from the living room we were in. They huddled together in a narrow hall in my home. It was something to see.
This family, who had already once lost everything in Katrina, who had fled over 200 miles to "safety" in Jena, were terrified as the wind shook my home. Unlike a tornado that comes and goes in a matter of seconds, a hurricane can continue with dangerous winds for half a day or more. We made the decision to rush the evacuees and my family to the church were there are no trees looming just above the sanctuary. We safely got them into the church, the youngest child, no more than two and a half, clinging to his mother's hand, bravely splashed through the puddles as the rain dropped like buckets from the sky.
My nephew and I took off to go ride out the storm at my mom's house. She was there alone with her mother who had come up because of Gustav. She's gone through Betsy, Katrina, Rita, and a host of other hurricanes and never responded to an evacuation notice, mandatory or not. This time she did. That alone should have told us something. We were just fifty yards from my mom's house when suddenly we saw a tree rushing towards us on the road. Whether it fell just in that moment (we took the same route to mom's we had taken to the church moments before) or we didn't see it soon enough because of the angle of the road going up the hill, we slammed into the tree. God was with us though: The impact was soften because the truck bounced skyward as soon as we crashed into it, landing snugly on top of the tree with both tires over it, leaving me straddling the tree, unable to move.
The hurricane, or tornado within the hurricane, was furiously shoving around the dozens of large trees that surrounded us on that small back road. I called 911 as my nephew rushed down to mom's to let her know what had happened. I watched his flashlight disappearing into the monsoon rains as I sat there waiting for the emergency responders to come. It was only a brief time before they came, but it seemed so long as each gust of wind looked like it would topple another tree upon me. I opened the door of the truck to allow myself a place to fall if another tree shattered in the wind. My nephew returned to get me, but I told him to get back to the house and take care of mom. I'd be there when the police came. The responders were so awesome.
Police Chief Paul Smith did a great job helping me (as he did my mom the next day, but that is her story to tell.) About three in the morning, I heard them come with saws and wreckers and cut up the tree that had ensnared my truck. They dropped it off in mom's driveway. There is literally nothing wrong with the truck besides a slight bending of a bar. I've used it for days to ferry supplies and generators and the like. The next day, as I examined the huge tree in my yard, I noticed that it's like God put the puzzle together to keep the falling trees and debris from hitting in the living room in which my guests had been gathered. God watched over us the entire time. My electricity is finally on. The evacuees from Gustav are back on the road south. We all have stories to tell and thanks to give to God. Tell you what: Why not reply to me and tell me your Gustav story. I'd love to hear how each of you have been doing over these last few days. How God brought you through it.