By Rev Canon S
THE well was a gathering place for us on the Family Island. It was at a time when “running water” meant running with pails of water in your hands or balanced on your head. Here at the well the neighbours came. We drank from the one open well, without fear of poisoning, obeah or witchcraft. Here we had conversation, fellowship and solved problems.
Ever so often, especially after a flooding, a downpour of rain, all the neighbours would gather with buckets large and small and in unison, and of one accord, draw out all the water and give the well’s bottom a good scrubbing out. We called that “cleaning the well out”. The same was true in Jesus’ day.
Jesus had one of the richest conversations recorded at the well of Samaria. Not only did the woman of Samaria meet Jesus at the well, but in our time, in our own way, we too can meet Jesus at the well.
In going home I looked forward to again going to the well and drawing water, and recall the fellowship that brought joy, love, peace, and yes, the presence of Jesus. Regrettably, the well is no more. It has been converted into a cesspit and now you buy your water.
Another place of gathering was most certainly the church. We gathered together Sunday by Sunday and almost every day for mass. Again, the church was beyond question a meeting place with Jesus and the faithful, as we recalled the words of Jesus: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst.”
I grew up with the belief that the house was for sleeping. When “day clean” we flung open the shutters on our doors and windows, and out we went. We lived in the community and gathered together on the road walking to our fields and to fishing grounds.
We gathered in our fields to cut bush and weed. We gathered after a long day under our trees with smoke to drive away mosquitoes. We talked, as we plaited, told stories and sang. As we gathered there was the presence of God.
What now? We grew up cultivating and living in the presence of God. Life, to be lived peaceably, must know where to find God’s presence or know how to cultivate God’s presence and so live in it. The disciples of Jesus learned it the hard way. In a storm on the sea of Galilee, where was Jesus? In the stern of the boat, asleep. Only in the storm did they remember Jesus. Every day we must know to be in God’s presence. Every day we must know to go to the well of life-giving waters. So that when storms do arise, our joy shall be secured and we can sing, “Be not dismayed what’er betide, God will take care of you.”
Let’s be real now and score this point: Storms are real. Matthew was traumatising. A surge came from deep southwest on Marshall Road straight up to Faith Avenue. Houses were destroyed, churches were washed out, and people are devastated. People are stressed and depressed. Many have no mind to go to work. The evacuation order was given, yet hundreds ignored it. They thought nothing would happen or thought they would stay to save their homes and things therein. In fact, some people were still nailing up plywood during the storm. The Defence Force, Police Force and NEMA were taxed beyond their wits to save those who made a foolish decision to ignore the evacuation notice.
Thank God normalcy is returning to Grand Bahama and North Andros. In North Andros, it is estimated that some 304 persons have been displaced by the storm. No house, no bed, no nothing. Thank God now North Andros residents could describe the state of their lives as “battered but not done.”
Matthew was a common denominator for rich and poor, black and white, PLPs and FNMs, and all us divided church people. God was present in Matthew. Someone asked, “Why didn’t God stop the storm?” Storms are part of the natural order. Just like the sun, heat and cold, earthquakes and rain, they have come and will continue to be a part of life. You buy sweaters and jackets, mink and fur in preparation for the cold. You prepare for happenings in life, because these things are real and you are ready when the situation arises.
Let us develop a sense of God’s presence in our lives. In doing so we must go to the well of common sense. God was in Matthew, he shouts out to us, “Prepare!” We live in a hurricane zone.
Remember, Matthew was only an interruption. Through the grace of God we will overcome this temporary interruption. Life never stopped and let’s face it, life is a series of storms. What were our other challenges even as Matthew howled for attention? Physical pain, financial crisis, family matters, broken relationships, children’s education, to name a few. Life is more than Matthew. But we don’t allow Matthew to be our only focus. Those three balls must still go up in the air and be caught in an unbroken rhythm. Matthew is one among many storms. We deal with them as they come, one at a time; sometimes two and three at a time. Before one passes another comes. The answer to coping with the storms of life is to stay in faith and you will be all right. Where is your God? Remember Jonah, he too, was asleep in the stern of a ship in a storm. The sailors woke him up and said, “Awake thou sleeper and pray to thy God!” Where is your God? Our parents taught us how to find him and live in his presence. He is no one place. He can be at the well, in homes, in church, but find him.