"There is a Cyclone (hurricane) headed for our coastline. Already many thousands of village people have been affected. There are deaths, the fishing towns have been devastated. Please pray for us."
I taped the BBC International News the following day because they generally carry far more reports on India and Africa than any American news agency. There was a lot of news concerning India alright, but it had nothing to do with the approaching storm. It had to do with the arrival of the American President. There was no mention of disaster, only "Peace, peace," when there is no peace.
We watched the internet, waited to hear from the Pastors, and we prayed. I thought of the times past we had traveled during the rainy season and the devastation caused by the rain on the makeshift housing of the villages we visit. I thought about the leper/beggar community who live in shelters constructed of sticks and thatching.
I copied down the verse in Isaiah regarding passing through the flood waters feeling it would be an appropriate strengthening Word.
"Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're Mine... When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down...I paid a huge price for you... That's how much you mean to Me! That's how much I love you!... So don't be afraid, I'm with you." Isaiah 43:2-5 The Message
The road from Chennai to Nellore was in good condition. It was dark (1:30am) when we arrived at the airport and it took 4 hours (instead of three) to make it to our destination. It was still dark. We couldn't tell what the conditions were. All we could see was the flood waters had receded. We were hopeful.
Yesterday, we headed out for our first programs at the orphanage and then the leper community. The roads were passable. There was activity on the streets and things back to their normal. It is far from "our" normal. There are still cows and dogs and wild boars, sorting through the debris in search of food. There are still motorcycles transporting a father a wife, a small child and perhaps a baby on the handle bars.
We even saw a monkey on the road much to one of my team members delight. We are not anywhere near normal to us or even Kansas, Toto.
But the things that are familiar and similar is the laughter. The smiles, the joy, and the Chicken Dance. I think each time I see it performed across the globe I hear the wings of angels fluttering beside me.
The orphans had a great time making new crafts, but the real delight of the day was the Polaroid photos taken at the leper colony. I could probably say with all certainty - they now have the first and most likely only picture they will ever own of themselves. They were delighted to see it develop right before their eyes. They were laughing.
They smile, just like normal people who are happy.
We walked through the village, past the debris brought in by the flood waters. We walked past scavaging dogs and pigs; past the huts held together with whatever twine they can gather. We walked past roofs of thatch and plastic bags. We drove back to our hotel...
where my room had flooded!
Water poured up from the bathroom floor drain, and the visiting plumbers only made the problem worse. The water was soon covering the floor in my room, where I was frantically trying to retrieve my shoes and luggage to higher ground.
The team leader came in and told us we were "evacuating" to rooms on a higher floor. It was a mess. It was a flurry of activity to cram our bags as fast as possible to get out.
I was frustrated, until I thought of the people I had just left. What did they do when the HURRICANE passed through their place? What did they do as the flood waters were rising? They didn't have any bags to pack. They didn't have any place to go. There was no higher ground for them.
There was only God.
"So don't be afraid, I am with you."
He is and was enough for them
And for me
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