A 1-foot hole in your stucco chimney the day before a hurricane is not welcome news. I got mad at God.
“Lord, don’t you know I have no way to fix this before this storm hits?” I asked. “And you know I can’t afford a major house repair. Why do you ask me to do the impossible?” A Spirit-filled moment it was not.
But the Holy Spirit is the shepherd of our hearts. Three weeks later he took me to Freeport, Grand Bahama, to get my attention. Converge is working here under the leadership of Dr. Raoul Armbrister, the director of the Converge Caribbean Initiative.
Even before I caught the ferry to Freeport, I immediately knew I had another big problem besides my chimney. I had overloaded my new Walmart rolling duffle bag with air mattresses to distribute, and it broke on the way to the car.
This time, I chose not to stress — a Spirit-filled miracle of its own. Instead I prayed, “Lord, you know there are people in the Bahamas sleeping on the ground who need these mattresses. Work out some way for me to get this bag from my car to the ferry.”
When I pulled up to the ferry terminal, the place to check bags was just 10 feet away. Despite strange dragging noises, the bag’s wheels made it. One of the things I love about missions trips is how you see the Holy Spirit show up in the little things.
God is like Alfred Hitchcock. He likes to show up in his own movies.
“We felt the Spirit of God with us.”
On Grand Bahama and the Abacos, local churches have mobilized to distribute meals and relief aid. I was there to do groundwork so that missions work teams from Converge churches could help in the kingdom rebuilding of the Bahamas. But the Holy Spirit — as he always does — had an agenda for me as well.
To hold up a mirror to my heart, God introduced me to the Smith family, who had a rooftop crisis of their own. The Sunday Dorian struck, the rising storm surge chased them into their attic for sanctuary. But when the waters were still rising Monday morning, the Smiths were forced to beat a hole in the roof and climb out into the very teeth of the storm. They stayed there all day and night until they were finally rescued about 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“From when we went into the attic, we had praise and worship straight through until we came down,” Sophia Smith, the mom, said. She said that supernaturally they had no fear.
“To be honest with you, it was so peaceful,” she said. “The wind was raging. The water was getting higher and higher. But we felt the Spirit of God with us. It was so amazing. The wind was blowing around us and above us, but it was as if God’s hands were open and we were in the middle of them.”
Thinking of my complaining about my chimney, I suddenly felt like Jonah whining about his wilted leaf.
The Holy Spirit was reshaping me. As the third person of the Godhead, he indwells all believers as their helper. Jesus said the Holy Spirit’s divine power and omnipresence make him strategic for the Christian life. His indwelling is even more to our advantage than being with Jesus himself.
In Acts 1:4-8 Jesus called us to a dependent and trusting posture of waiting for God’s Holy Spirit in our here and now. If we do this, he promised, the Spirit will fill us to accomplish the work of God through us as we face life’s circumstances. He will make our lives his God-empowered incarnational testimonies to all — near and far. The Smiths’ faith gave them a rooftop message to proclaim far and wide.
“The wind was raging. The water was getting higher and higher. But we felt the spirit of God was with us. It was so amazing. The wind was blowing around us and above us, but it was as if God’s hands were open and we were in the middle of them.”
Mrs. Wildgoose was another person I met who had been ministered to by Converge Dorian relief and had a Holy Spirit testimony. She received hot meals, a tarp, a much-needed generator and basic personal supplies and groceries. As she told me how grateful she was, she shared her story.
She was stuck in her home, unable to open the door due to the pressure of rising floodwaters. As she was attempting to climb out a window, her son asked where she was going.
“I don’t know where I am going,” she said. “The Holy Spirit will tell me where to go.”
She made it out of the house, and God guided her through chest-high water to safety in a neighbor’s two-story house.
God’s glory: Bigger than our pain
Trusting God’s Spirit takes faith on our part. While driving me to his decimated home, Converge pastor Simeon Outten shared that God shaped his heart through losing everything to Dorian.
“It is sad to lose things you work hard for,” he said. “But the thing I am excited about is that I have not lost my faith, my confidence in my God. I trust him wholeheartedly. I do. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadows, I will fear no evil, for God is with us. That’s my faith.”
I was challenged. I had suffered a huge, personal and very painful loss in 2019 that I have been trying to make sense of. But Pastor Simeon’s words reminded me God’s glory is so much bigger than my pain. I cannot make my pain my idol. Worship is the way to realign my heart.
Amid the groans of living with the consequences of a broken creation, the Holy Spirit is using faith like this to bring good out of Dorian (Romans 8).
God asked Jonah, ‘Should I not have concern for the great city of Ninevah, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left?’ He is asking us: Will we turn our backs and sail the other way? Or will we follow his spirit and join his restoring work?
One afternoon church planter Bishop Rodney Forbes took me with him to deliver meals in the neighborhood around his church. At each stop, he invited folks to attend church the next morning and said its members would be handing out kids’ backpacks with supplies. People once resistant to him are now opening up.
One of our stops was to bring a meal to an older Haitian woman. “Do you know of any air mattresses?” she asked. “I need an air mattress.”
I couldn’t help but smile as I told her I did, indeed, know where she could obtain an air mattress. Funny how the Spirit works.
This Holy Spirit is using Converge through the Hurricane Dorian tragedy to grow the kingdom influence of churches like Raoul’s, Simeon’s and Rodney’s all across Grand Bahama and the Abacos.
Not just recovery. Redemption.
Initially, I was not listening for the Holy Spirit in the winds of Dorian. But he showed up anyway. God sees the Bahamas through his redemptive eyes, the same as he did Nineveh. That is why he challenges us as he did Jonah to get involved with him. God wants more than just to help the Bahamas recover. He wants to redeem them.
God asked Jonah, “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left?” He is asking us: Will we turn our backs and sail the other way? Or will we follow his Spirit and join his restoring work?